Passport Rule for the Visa Lottery Canceled


The Diversity Visa Lottery is one of the most successful methods for entering the US as a permanent resident. However, in 2019, The US State Department made it much harder for applicants by enforcing what they called the Passport Rule.

Luckily, though, the rule has now been canceled after four applicants sued the Us government in an American court. Let’s take a look at what the rule meant, how it was canceled, and what this means for the Diversity Visa Lottery moving forwards.

What was the Passport Rule?

In 2019, the Trump-era State Department enacted what was known as the Passport Rule. It meant that people applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery had to have a valid non-expired passport before applying for the lottery.

On the surface, this might not sound like an unreasonable thing to suggest. After all, USCIS needs to confirm that applicants are valid people before issuing them a Green Card.

According to the State Department, 3 very limited situations were exceptions to the rule. These were:

  1. Stateless people. After all, if you have no official state, you can’t obtain a passport.
  2. Nationals of communist countries. Communist governments in some areas make it difficult or impossible to obtain a passport.
  3. Beneficiaries of other individual waivers as part of the Diversity Visa Lottery application, such as being a refugee or asylum seeker.

These exemptions were very rare in themselves, as it’s not very often that someone becomes truly stateless. The other exemptions are a bit more common, but applicants needed to provide evidence. It could be very difficult to obtain, meaning their options were still limited.

As you might have already guessed, the Passport Rule had a big impact on people from poorer countries who couldn’t afford to obtain a new passport from their government. In some situations, too, people simply couldn’t obtain passports due to government corruption or similar reasons. These people didn’t fit into any of the exemptions listed above, meaning they simply didn’t have the option to apply.

Passport Rule

Like Trump’s Muslim ban, the Passport Rule was clearly a way to limit who entered the US, even legally. Of course, proving that rules like this are racist or discriminatory is difficult in court, which is why the plaintiffs took a different approach.

What Impact Did the Passport Rule Have on Immigration?

The Diversity Visa Lottery lists up to 55,000 winners each year. However, it typically receives more than 14 million applications every year. According to the lawyers involved in the case, the Passport Rule caused it to drop to around 6.7 million applicants. People from African countries were particularly affected, mainly due to the reasons mentioned above.

What Happened in the Court Case?

Shortly after the Passport Rule was enacted, 4 previous applicants decided to sue the State Department for causing irreparable harm. In short, their argument was that the Passport Rule prevented them from applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery. In turn, this caused them harm because it removed their opportunity to seek employment and better living conditions in the US.

The case was initially denied due to a lack of evidence. However, the prosecution team changed their argument, instead stating the rule was unlawful. They argued that it skipped the public comment stage, which is a requirement under the Administrative Procedure Act.

On February 4, 2022, a District Judge found in favor of the claimants. He decided the Passport Rule was unlawful, which means it’s no longer in effect. Surprisingly, he was appointed by the Trump administration, which says something about how bad the law was.

Below you can watch a recording of the press conference held after the victory.

Judge Timothy J. Kelly is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and former chief counsel for national security and senior crime counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee

If you need more information about the judge’s ruling please read Civil Action No. 19-2856 (TJK).


You can download the court ruling from the United States district court for the District of Columbia below

The Future of the Diversity Visa Lottery

So, what does this mean for the future of the Diversity Visa Lottery? In short, it means the rules go back to what they were before. Applicants will still need to apply online; they just won’t need to include a valid passport when submitting their online application.

However please note that applicants will still need a valid non-expired passport when attending the visa interview at the American embassy.

Therefore, applicants that are selected for further visa processing should immediately obtain a passport from their government otherwise they will not be able to attend the visa interview, which is where their temporary visa to the United States will be issued.

Even though it isn’t mandatory to submit your passport information when you apply online, US Green Card Office still recommends submitting it if available. Submitting passport information will make it easier for our immigration team to assist you in finding your DS-260 and attending the visa interview if you are selected for further processing.

The Diversity Visa Lottery is still the best way to obtain a US Green Card because it doesn’t require you to have previous connections to the United States.

To ensure your application is accepted, make sure you apply through US Green Card Office. Along with helping with your application, we’ll keep you updated with any changes to the lottery regulations, such as the Passport Rule.

By using the value-added service of the US Green Card Office, you will not only get professional immigration help, you will also avoid being disqualified because of errors in your application. This increases your chance of being selected by 65%, according to studies made by USGCO over the past 24 years.

You can read more about the free government service, and the paid value-added service provided US Green Card office by visiting the Diversity Visa Comparison Chart.

Apply today for the best chance of being selected for the upcoming Green Card Lottery

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