LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Fatemeh Alamdari moved to the United States from Iran after winning the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery in 2014.
The Diversity Visa Program was established in the Immigration Act of 1990. It gives 55,000 immigrant visas every year.
When Alamdari went to the embassy to pick up her family’s visa, they didn’t have any left for her husband, Farshad Amirkhani.
“Our lottery was not a good lottery. It changed our lives,” said Alamdari.
The family debated whether they would move. Ultimately, they decided living in the United States would be best for their children.
Two years passed before Amirkhani was granted an interview for a visa. The year coincided with President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order to place a travel ban on seven countries, including Iran.
“Every day we are waiting for his visa. Every day we hope tomorrow we will get news from the embassy,” said Alamdari.
Amirkhani applied for a waiver to the travel ban. The family is waiting for the U.S. government to approve it, but immigration attorney Curtis Morrison explained it’s hard to pinpoint when that might happen.
“It’s not an actual line. There’s no queue,” he said. “If there’s no queue, you can understand why they think his is forever.”
Since the implementation of the executive order in Dec. 2017, approximately 10 percent of 72,000 visa applicants have received waivers to enter the United States, according to Edward Ramotowski, deputy assistant secretary for visa services at the department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Alamdari joined a federal lawsuit in 2019 suing the U.S. Government over the travel ban. They’re one of 14 Iranian American families who haven’t been given waivers, despite waiting months and years for them.
“This is the last option for us,” said Alamdari, who said she’s reached out to several legislators for help, including Sen. Mitch McConnell. “No one can help us and no one can give us the answer.”
A U.S. airstrike on Iraq, which killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, put Iran’s tense relationship with the U.S. on the front page of newspapers worldwide. It also sent Alamdari’s son Sorena, 11, into a panic.
“My mom saw this video of the missiles hitting Iraq. I thought she said Iran,” he recounted. “I didn’t know if it was in Tehran where my dad was.”
The family stays in contact through Skype and Whatsapp, but Alamdari said after five years, the distance is taking a toll on them.
“[Amirkhani’s] not doing well. I have these two with me. He’s alone,” she said. “He’s missed a lot of things in their lives and they are not repeatable.”
Alamdari will take the naturalization test in March, with the hope that becoming a U.S. citizen will help push their case along.
“I don’t want to take away hope from her, but that’s not even guaranteed,” said Morrison.