Dorisnelly Fuentes Matos may have won the US visa draw on paper, but she is nowhere close to reaching the US.
A 27-year-old Cuban economics student earned a coveted spot more than a year ago for seeking one of the 55,000 visas issued by the US government each year in a lottery to increase national diversity. I was told that I did. She submitted documents to the Kentucky State Department Processing Center and awaited an interview at the US Embassy in Guyana, which processes Cuban visa applications.
But the interview never came. Currently, the visa is set to expire on Thursday, and she and her husband are stuck.
“We are nowhere, so we are asking someone for help,” said Fuentes Matos, who is awaiting an appointment in Guyana. “We’re stuck in this country and can’t even go back to Cuba.”
After being declared the winner of the Visa Lottery and submitting the required documents, more than 20,000 people have filed proceedings, but have never been interviewed or shot upon arrival in the United States. Very slow as the government issued nearly a quarter of the visas allocated for the fiscal year ending September after being suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, giving priority to other visa applications. His lawyer said he had resumed at speed.
State Department officials said the pandemic had “significantly reduced” visa processing capacity. Embassies and consulates have been instructed to prioritize lottery tickets, but the United States cannot issue visa numbers. The officials said this in the coming financial year.
This is what Fuentes Matos is concerned about. As the visa deadline approached, she panicked and was immediately asked to attend a meeting with US consulate officials in Guyana. So she and her husband quit their jobs, sold their homes, bought plane tickets, and took a detour to Georgetown via Spain and Panama. So they stayed in the hostel and waited for an interview which had not come yet.
Winning the lottery is no longer straightforward. Millions of people register every year and are granted only up to 55,000 visas. The chances of getting a winning ticket are negligible and you will have to wait for a consular interview from there. Even in a normal year, not everyone can get a visa before the United States runs out of visas for that year.
For many years, the United States primarily issued assigned diversity visas, most of which were directed to people from Africa and Europe. After the pandemic, the Trump administration halted many green cards issued outside the United States, including these visas. Some affected lottery applicants have filed proceedings, and last year a federal judge ordered the government to book 9,000 diversity immigrant visas over the next year.
The Biden administration has lifted the ban on green cards this year. However, the State Department has yet to issue most immigrant diversification visas this year, so another group of lottery winners is facing a similar situation.
Curtis Lee Morrison, an immigration attorney who represents thousands of immigrant diversification visa applicants, has taken a car or home to pay for the costs associated with the application, such as traveling to a third country for consulate interviews. He said some customers sold it. He said that the applicant, who was selected as the winner and submitted all the necessary documents to show his eligibility, still feels unlucky due to the delay. According to Morrison, the client found his company through social media, and despite having a large number of plaintiffs, the proceedings did not receive class action status.
“When the diversity immigrant visa program was implemented, it was implemented as a diplomatic tool,” Morrison said. “The credibility of our equipment, we are losing it. Instead, we look like scammers.”
The applicant’s lawyer asked the judge to book the visa again so that it would not expire. The US government opposed the move, saying that holding a large number of visas makes it more likely that plaintiffs will typically get visas than lottery winners. Judge Amit P. Mefta of the US District Court in Washington said he will make a decision on Thursday before the visa expires.
Fuentes Matos said he relied on judges to keep his hopes of moving to the United States alive, but was only allowed to remain in Guyana for three months. She said she was one of four families waiting to be interviewed at the consulate and didn’t know what to do if the interview didn’t happen.
She decided to participate in the visa lottery in hopes of making a better life for herself and her husband, who worked as a taxi driver in Havana.
“We didn’t leave anything in Cuba,” said Fuentes Matos. “We are experiencing very difficult times.”
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