Zeynali v. Blinken

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA REZA ZEYNALI, Plaintiff, Civil Action No. 22-cv-2683 (BAH) v. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell ANTONY BLINKEN, Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of State, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER In May 2021, plaintiff Reza Zeynali, an Iranian national, was selected for the State Department’s diversity visa (“DV”) program for Fiscal Year 2022. Compl. ¶¶ 16–17, ECF 1. This program makes up to 55,000 visas available annually, via random selection in a lottery, to citizens from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, and who, if randomly selected, are eligible to apply each year for those diversity visas, see 8 U.S.C. §§ 1151(e), 1153(c); 22 C.F.R. § 42.33. 1 Since being selected, plaintiff has prepared and submitted his initial required forms, but has yet to be scheduled for an interview and adjudication of his visa 1 The lottery selectees submit their initial paperwork to the Department of State’s Kentucky Consular Center, which reviews it for completion and then schedules documentarily qualified selectees for interviews at their local consular posts. Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. D, Decl. of Morgan Miles (“Miles Decl.”) ¶¶ 1–2, 6–7, 9–10, ECF No. 9-6. Whether or not an interview appointment can be scheduled depends on several factors, including whether the selectee has properly submitted his or her complete paperwork, whether the Kentucky Consular Center has finished processing that selectee’s paperwork, whether the local consular post has an appointment available, and whether the selectee’s randomly assigned regional rank order number is next in the queue. See id. ¶¶ 9–10. Thus, even a selectee who promptly submitted his or her initial paperwork may not yet be eligible for an interview if, for example, the local consular post is working through a backlog of processing higher-priority visa applications and has no current appointments available, or the selectee’s regional rank order number is much higher than others in the region. If and when a selectee has an interview at the local consular post, it is at that interview that the selectee formally makes his or her DV application. See 22 C.F.R. § 40.1(l)(2) (defining the making of an immigrant visa application as “personally appearing before the consular officer” and proceeding through the interview, with the required documentary evidence and forms submitted in advance). The consular officer then adjudicates the application and either issues or refuses the visa. See 8 U.S.C. § 1202(b); 22 C.F.R. § 42.81(a) 1 application at his local consular post. Compl. ¶¶ 18–19. With the fiscal year drawing to a close on September 30, 2022, after which he will lose his status as a DV program selectee, see 8 U.S.C. § 1154(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II), plaintiff filed this lawsuit, on September 6, 2022, seeking that the Court mandate the State Department to adjudicate his application prior to that deadline, see Compl. at 8 (Prayer for Relief). The Complaint asserts a single claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., alleging that defendants—Secretary of State Antony …

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