Part 4: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan – “Despite what you think, you really are not divorced.”

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Mssrs. R, Y, K, K, and D each submitted entries for the DV-2018 Lottery during the registration period in the fall of 2016. They each had been divorced by an Uzbek court before the Lottery, so they indicated in their entries that they were divorced.  Each of them was selected as a winner. After attending their interviews and presenting the court decisions as evidence of their divorce, they were advised by consular staff that they were being refused immigrant visas because they had not picked up their divorce certificates from the local registration office prior to submission of their entries: as a result, in the eyes of the Embassy, they were not officially divorced when they completed their Lottery entries.

While the Uzbek law on divorce is ambiguous, it has been in effect since 2011.  What is beyond dispute is that the issuance of a court decision renders the couple without any marital rights and they must relinquish their marriage certificates during the court case. From 2011 until 2017, the Embassy, including Mr. Deeb, interpreted the law to allow for the presentation of a divorce court decision as satisfying the requirement.  The US Embassy in Tashkent issued immigrant visas to Diversity Visa winners who presented divorce court decisions without any problem.

Then, Mr. Deeb decided to singlehandedly change this practice – without any advance notification to Uzbek DV applicants.  It was the above-mentioned gentlemen who became victims of this reinterpretation – without having any advance notice, after incurring substantial DV-Lottery fees and expenses in traveling to Tashkent and undergoing medical exams.  Because they relinquished their marriage certificates during their divorce proceedings, they were unable to submit a marriage certificate at the time of their visa interview. In other words, they would have been unable to qualify as “married” or “divorced” in the eyes of the US Embassy in Tashkent.[1]

As Mr. Deeb well knows, the problem is that the Diversity Visa registration period is 12-23 months before the actual visa interview.  DV entrants for DV-2018 completed their entries from October 4 to November 7, 2016.  They did so without any advance notice of the Embassy’s reinterpretation of Uzbek divorce law.  Had they known, they would have been able to pick up their divorce certificates before submitting their DV-2018 entries. This, in the eyes of Mr. Deeb, would have qualified them to receive immigrant visas.  Similarly, the registration period for DV-2019 was from October 18 to November 22, 2017.  Individuals who submitted their entries at that time  were also unaware of the newly-imposed Embassy requirement, and already after October/November 2017, were unable to correct the situation.

Incredibly, more than one year after the imposition of this new interpretation, neither the Embassy’s website nor DV instructions for Uzbek applicants warn Uzbek applicants. In fact, the Embassy’s own document list suggests that either a divorce decision or divorce certificate suffices. By failing to notify selectees in advance, the Embassy is setting up Uzbek visa applicants for visa refusals.  In other words, the Embassy knows that there will be applicants applying for Diversity Visas and paying Diversity Visa fees who will not qualify because they were unaware of this newly-imposed requirement. In doing so, Mr. Deeb and the Department of State are able to reallocate these visas to other individuals, with the Department of State able to receive new processing fees.

Perhaps most insulting, consular officials have discretion to issue visas in these circumstances. 9 FAM 502.6-4b.(2)(c)(iv).  As previously discussed, the Department of State recognizes that there will arise legal nuances that do not fit neatly into the requirements of the DV rules. In such situations, the Department has in place a residual rule that allows for the exercise of positive discretion, i.e., even if a consul believes that an applicant did not comply with the letter of the DV rules, a consul may issue the visa anyway.  The Embassy does not suspect fraud or misrepresentation in any of these divorce cases. Yet, not only did Mr. Deeb not exercise this discretion; he has made the conscious decision to not inform future applicants of his reinterpretation.

Finally, one wonders whether Mr. Deeb will now seek to rescind the US permanent resident status of individuals from Uzbekistan who had only presented divorce decisions at the time of applying for Diversity Visas from 2011-2017. Potentially, such a pursuit could impact the status of hundreds of Uzbeks and their families in the United States.  While this sounds farfetched and beyond the realm of possibility, keep in mind that it is 2018 – where conventional wisdom no longer applies, nothing is off-limits, and there is no predicting how far Mr. Deeb will go.

Make no mistake: the cases cited in these articles represent only a few examples of the numerous victims.  Mr. Deeb’s reign of consular tyranny continues today. His denial du jour in DV-2019 relates to the “improper” spelling of the applicant’s patronymic in the DV entry – using the proper English spelling instead of the Uzbek spelling indicated in the applicant’s passport.  I repeat the question posed in the second article of this series: would such discriminatory and systemic maltreatment of visa applicants by a US consular officer be tolerated in Western Europe? Isn’t it time that instead of circling the wagons, the Department of State steps in and does the right thing – removes Mr. Deeb from his post?  Isn’t it time to stop this Tsar-Consul who continues to wreak havoc and destroy the lives of legitimate, unsuspecting Uzbek visa applicants?

[1] One interesting side note is that the DV rules allow an applicant to exclude from the DV entry an ex-spouse or a spouse if legally separated.  This makes sense: the ex-spouse or the legally separated spouse will not be immigrating.  In such a case, the DV rules do not require a photograph of the ex-spouse or legally separated spouse.  This too makes sense: why would an ex-spouse or a separated spouse provide a photograph for inclusion in a DV entry?  But according to the Embassy in Tashkent, that exemption does not carry over to these “quasi-divorce” cases, notwithstanding the fact that the ex-spouse will not be immigrating and will not provide a photograph.