Yemeni college student Abdualrahaman Zaid thought he had hit the jackpot when he won the American green-card lottery in 2016. Today, he doesn’t feel so lucky.
The U.S. State Department selected Zaid from over 19 million applicants, giving him the rare chance for a fresh start in the U.S. For Abdualrahaman, the green card was a golden ticket out of a civil war that has ravaged his country, causing nearly 14,000 civilian casualties and sparking what Oxfam has called the worst cholera outbreak on record.
But his luck started to turn soon after receiving word of his lottery selection. Because the U.S. consulate office in Yemen had been shuttered during the war, Zaid was told he’d have to travel to Malaysia to pursue his American visa.
So Zaid and his family gathered their most valuable possessions — including their ancestral lands — and sold them off to afford their son’s travel to Kuala Lumpur, and a chance at life in America.
But the process didn’t get any easier in Kuala Lumpur. And after finally getting his interview for the 2017 diversity visa, he was told to start over. When the consulate told him to resubmit a new passport and answer some additional questions, he did so promptly, he says. Again he was forced to wait.
Month by month, Zaid waited patiently for his promised American visa, but he received no word from the consulars.
Then came word on June 26 that the U.S. Supreme Court would allow part of President Trump’s travel ban to take effect, and U.S. embassies stopped processing visa applications from those “banned countries,” which included Yemen. Though the Supreme Court’s ruling made exceptions for travelers who had “bona fide relationships” in the U.S., it didn’t apply to Zaid’s case.
The decision was a devastating blow to Zaid, who says he’s spent over $12,000 waiting in limbo for an answer from the U.S. consulate.
VICE News traveled to Kuala Lumpur in August to spend time with Zaid as he anxiously waited to find out if his green card application would be approved before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“I can’t really think at all at the moment,” the 25-year-old university student told VICE News. “I am very confused.”