Shahi v. United States Department of State, No. 21-3171 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The diversity-visa program makes as many as 55,000 visas available annually to citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, 8 U.S.C. 1151(e), 1153(c); the State Department holds a lottery to determine priority. Applicants who qualify, through random selection, for a diversity visa “shall remain eligible to receive such visa only through the end of the specific fiscal year for which they were selected.” The fiscal-year limit has caused many applications to fail; bureaucratic inertia or foul-ups have the same effect as affirmative decisions that applicants are ineligible. The Seventh Circuit held in 2002 held that the fiscal-year limit cannot be extended by judicial order.
In March 2020, the State Department stopped processing routine visa applications, including diversity visas. High-priority applications, such as for diplomats, medical emergencies, and medical personnel, continued to be approved. Two presidential orders confirmed the Department’s approach. Fiscal Year 2020 expired.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by applicants whose eligibility had expired. Section 1154(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II) applies regardless of the relief sought; it does not set a time limit for administrative action nor impose any duty on the State Department. It only specifies the consequence of delay: the applicant’s eligibility expires. A court is not authorized to substitute a different consequence. There is no statute authorizing monetary relief for the plaintiffs’ outlays that did not lead to visas.