Tate v. Pompeo

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CHARLOTTE LOUISE TATE, et al., Plaintiffs, Civil Action No. 20–3249 (BAH) v. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell MICHAEL POMPEO, Secretary of State, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION Plaintiffs in this case are eighteen applicants for nonimmigrant O-1 and O-3 visas, which would allow them to enter the United States to further their professional careers in areas where they possess “extraordinary ability,” or as family members of such individuals. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the visa application and interview process, creating challenges both for foreign nationals wishing to travel to the United States and for the diplomatic posts responsible for processing visa applications. Plaintiffs have been unable to obtain visas, in part because the State Department has interpreted broadly certain Presidential Proclamations that forbid entry of individuals who were in certain designated countries within fourteen days of their attempted entry into the United States, as prohibiting the Department from issuing visas to individuals residing in those designated countries. Plaintiffs have brought this suit to challenge the State Department’s visa policy as unlawful and to compel resumption the adjudication of their visas. To this end, they have moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the State Department’s visa-issuance suspension as contrary to the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq., and to compel the 1 State Department immediately to resume processing their visas on grounds of unreasonable delay. The Court agrees with plaintiffs—and the decisions of two other Judges in this district— that the State Department has acted unlawfully in suspending O-visa processing based on the Presidential Proclamations, which pertain only to entry, but defendants prevail on the delay claim. Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is therefore granted in part and denied in part. I. BACKGROUND Provided below is an overview of the O-visa program through which plaintiffs seek to enter the country, and a description of the Presidential Proclamations and relevant State Department policies, followed by a summary of the procedural history of this action. A. O Visa Program The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) provides a nonimmigrant visa category for qualified individuals who “[have] extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics . . . and [who] seek[] to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(O)(i); see also 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o). 1 To obtain such an “O-1” visa, an individual outside the United States must (1) have an I-129 petition approved by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”), and then (2) apply for an O-1 visa at a United States embassy or consulate. 8 U.S.C. § 1184(c); 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o)(1)(i). O-3 visas allow for the spouses and minor children of O-1 visa recipients to obtain visas themselves. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o)(1)(i). 1 A nonimmigrant is admitted to the United States for a finite period, and for a specific purpose. 8 U.S.C. § 1184(a). 2 B. Presidential Proclamations In response to the …

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