But, he said, “Making the necessary changes isn’t going to happen overnight.”
Still, many people, including some caught up in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, say time is running out for them.
Iryna Bohdan, a 50-year-old Ukrainian, won a green card lottery in May 2019 through the diversity visa program, which prioritizes countries with low levels of immigration to the United States. But she was barred from entering the United States because of the Trump administration’s pandemic restrictions.
She got her hopes up when Mr. Biden took office because he had celebrated the visa lottery during his campaign and even proposed expanding the program by about 25,000 visas. Last fall, two judges ordered the Biden administration to process the backlogged visas this year.
But Justice Department lawyers have appealed the court orders, saying the government still lacks the resources to process the visa applicants without delaying future winners of the lottery.
This month, the lawyers also argued that the orders would undermine the president’s ability to impose future travel restrictions on other visa applicants, including Russian officials hit with sanctions by the United States for invading Ukraine.
“We don’t know what to do,” said Ms. Bohdan, who fled to Poland this month with her 14-year-old twin sons. Speaking through a translator, she said her family had been visiting relatives in northeast Ukraine before the war began and did not have time to go home to get clothes, belongings or the animals they care for at their veterinary clinic.
Vitali Demchenko, who won the visa lottery more than two years ago, said he now stayed up at night in his home in Ternopil, in western Ukraine, listening for sirens warning of a Russian attack, just in case his family needs to hide in a bomb shelter.