Originally Published in CNN
Madeleine Stix, Jennifer Hansler and Muhammad Darvish - February 28, 2021
She was in her fourth year of university, living in Yemen, a newlywed and soon to be pregnant when she found out she won the US Diversity Visa Lottery, also known as "The Green Card Lottery." It seemed Al-Doais had beaten the odds -- 12.4 million applicants applied for a chance at the up to 50,000 visas that could be issued for 2017.
But in 2017, then-President Donald Trump took a series of actions aimed at barring individuals from Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States. The one that was ultimately allowed to take effect -- Presidential Proclamation 9645 -- placed varying levels of restrictions on foreign nationals from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia and Yemen.
The path to a new life in the US for diversity visa lottery recipients like her seemed all but blocked. Although she said she was not refused under the executive order, she was not able to obtain her green card before time lapsed.
"After our dreams of traveling to the US were shattered, everything completely changed and was destroyed in my view," Al-Doais told CNN. "The simplest way to describe my life currently is that it is a nightmare."
Now, four years later, with the restrictions struck down by President Joe Biden, Al-Doais and other diversity visa recipients hope that they might once again have the chance to resettle in the United States.
The diversity visa program was established as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 in order to promote immigration from countries with fewer individuals coming to the United States.
"It provides an opportunity for individuals to come into the US that typically won't have any other avenue to getting here," Abed Ayoub, the policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told CNN.
Millions enter the lottery each year; only a fraction are chosen.
Al-Doais said that winning the visa lottery "was among the greatest moments of (her) life."
"It was a decisive moment that was full of happiness," she told CNN.
The winners of the lottery are able to apply for visas to the United States -- a process that can be extremely costly and challenging.