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US visas granted under the 2020 Diversity Visa lottery have been extended following a federal judge’s ruling. Winners from the 2020 Diversity Visa lottery have been embroiled in a legal battle challenging a Trump-era policy that prevents them from entering the US. District Judge Amit Mehta ordered visas to be extended by a further six months.
In September 2020, Mehta had ordered the Trump administration to resume the issuing of US Diversity Visas to immigrants from underrepresented nations. The ruling partially reversed a ban imposed on US work visas by Trump amid the coronavirus pandemic – a policy that the Biden administration has upheld.
Commenting on his US visa extension ruling, Judge Mehta explained that: “Letting visas lapse while the travel bans are in effect would rob the lottery winners of standing to challenge the orders and thwart the court’s ability to address the potential harm caused by not being able to enter the country.”
Plaintiffs want proclamations declared unlawful
The plaintiffs bringing the legal challenge have demanded that the proclamation issued by Trump be declared unlawful.
However, Mehta said: “Even if the court were to declare the proclamations unlawful as plaintiffs request, a DV-2020 plaintiff who lacked a current, valid visa still could not enter the country. Accordingly, an order declaring the proclamations unlawful would provide no relief to a DV-2020 plaintiff without a current, valid US visa.”
In issuing the order to extend visas, Mehta granted a request to invoke the All Writs Act, a law that is centuries old and allows a court to issue orders that are ‘necessary to preserve the availability of meaningful judicial review.’
Mehta’s latest order offers some relief for Diversity Visa winners who have been locked in litigation since July 2020. Meanwhile, Mehta’s September order did see the US Department of State (DoS) issue 7,000 Diversity Visas.
The Biden administration has so far not revoked Trump’s order banning the issuance of US work visas, which was extended until March 31 by the former President. This prompted Diversity Visa winners to push Mehta for further relief, stressing that their visas would expire prior to the order coming to an end – nullifying the September order.
However, lawyers for the Biden administration argued against this, saying that Mehta had ‘ruled against the lottery winners’ constitutional challenge to the proclamations in that same order’. The lawyers said: “By extending the validity of the visas, Judge Mehta would frustrate that portion of the preliminary ruling.”
Mehta dismissed this claim and other claims that further relief would amount to a preliminary injunction.
Final decision on US work visa ban
During a recent court hearing, lawyers for the Biden administration hinted that a final decision on the US work visa ban was forthcoming from the White House. Hours before Mehta’s order, the DoS announced that lottery winners whose US visa was set to expire by the end of March, had been exempted from the ban.
Mehta’s order specified that extended visas would expire six months from when the travel ban is lifted, should President Biden rescind the ban prior to its expiry.
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