DV Update: Appellate Court Reverses District Court Decision Allowing Diversity Visa 2020 and 2021 Selectees to Obtain Immigrant Visas


A recent appellate court decision handed down on June 25th has reversed a lower court’s decision which previously allowed the State Department to adjudicate and approve diversity visa cases from the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years.

The case Goodluck v. Biden, No. 21-5263 (D.C. Cir. June 25, 2024) dealt with the COVID-era presidential proclamation 10014 signed by former President Trump in April 2020, which suspended the entry to the United States of certain immigrant visa applicants following the Coronavirus outbreak.

The suspension had a devastating impact on the Diversity Immigrant Visa program because the State Department refused to issue diversity visas while the presidential proclamation remained in effect. The Department took the position that because the presidential proclamation rendered certain aliens inadmissible to the U.S., it also made them ineligible for visas.

Later, the State Department suspended all routine visa services including the processing of applications for diversity visas due to COVID-19 shelter in place orders.

In response, a class of diversity visa applicants selected in the DV 2020 and 2021 diversity visa lotteries sued the government, arguing that the Department’s policies prevented them from receiving their immigrant visas before the mandated fiscal-year-end deadlines.

As the case moved through litigation, the district courts agreed with the DV selectees ordering the State Department to prioritize processing and issue diversity visas past the end of the fiscal year deadlines.

In subsequent court orders, DV selectees were granted equitable relief which ordered the State Department to reserve diversity visas for DV 2020 and 2021 selectees for processing and issuance after the end of the fiscal year.

On appeal, the court consolidated the cases Gomez v. Biden, Rai v. Biden, Goodluck v. Biden, and Goh v. Biden, and ruled that the lower courts overstepped their authority and could not order the State Department to continue processing their applications for diversity visas and issuing them beyond their respective fiscal-year-end deadlines.

The order stated, “Courts cannot order relief that conflicts with a clear and constitutionally valid statute. . . . Once Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 ended, the plaintiffs lost their eligibility for diversity visas. The district courts erred in asserting an equitable authority to override these clear statutory deadlines, which foreclose the prospective relief sought in these cases. Accordingly, we reverse the remedial orders challenged by the government, reject the Goh cross-appeal, and remand the cases with instructions to enter judgment [in favor of] the government.”

What this Means

The appellate court’s decision means that the State Department will not process diversity visa cases associated with the above district court decisions from the DV-2020 or DV-2021 program years.

In the case of further litigation, the State Department has said it will continue to preserve records related to the DV-2020 and DV-2021 programs until the litigation has concluded.

Those impacted who remain eligible for the program can still submit a new DV entry during the registration period for the DV-2026 program year, which will open in October 2024 and close in early November 2024.

To read the State Department’s announcement, please click here.

To read the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision, please click here.

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