Diversity Visa Fraud: Beware of Visa Lottery Scams
In recent years, there have been cases of websites pretending to be official U.S. government sites. They sometimes held themselves out as affiliated with the U.S. Department of State's annual Diversity Visa Lottery. They send letters and emails posing as U.S. government agencies, but it turns out that these sites are engaging in diversity visa scams, hoping to extract payment by taking advantage of immigrants.
That is why the U.S. government advises all applicants to be familiar with information related to diversity visas. They are encouraged to look at the procedures and rules for the DV program to inform them of what to expect and from whom they should expect communications.
Is the Diversity Visa Program a Scam?
No. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is a legitimate government initiative managed by the U.S. Department of State. It gives foreign nationals from eligible countries with low immigration rates to the United States the chance to obtain a green card or an immigrant visa. Every year, there are 50,000 diversity visas available. These numbers are picked randomly out of all the visa applicants. This is why the program is also known as the DV lottery.
Warning Signs of Visa Lottery Scam
Scammers often take advantage of the immigrant's lack of legal knowledge. If you or your family are looking to acquire an immigrant visa through the DV program, it is crucial to stay informed. Scammers are clever and use convincing tactics to trick unsuspecting immigrants. The following are some of the fraud warnings that you can look out for:
- Promises of quicker visa processing or guaranteed entry
- Website or emails asking for money to complete the application process
- Requests for payment through unofficial methods such as Western Union or other wire transfers
- Emails that do not end with .gov pretending to be a U.S. government website
Note that internet websites ending in .gov are official government websites. To see over 200 U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate websites, visit www.usembassy.gov. The following are the U.S. government websites that contain application forms, official immigration and visa information:
|Department of State, Diversity Visa Program||https://dvprogram.state.gov/|
|U.S. Embassy and Consulate||http://www.usembassy.gov/|
|Department of State, Consular Affairs||https://travel.state.gov/|
|Department of Homeland Security (DHS)||http://www.dhs.gov|
|Department of Labor||http://www.doleta.gov|
|DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services||http://www.uscis.gov|
|DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement||http://www.ice.gov|
|DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection||http://www.cbp.gov|
Where Do I Find Official Information About the DV Program?
The only authorized means of applying to the DV program is through the website of the U.S. Department of State (DOS). The application is only within a specified registration period.
Entrants in the DV lottery program may check their DV lottery status online through the Department of State website. Here, you can check whether your application was selected or not. When checking your entrant status, you should have the following information:
- Entrant confirmation number
- Last name or Family name
- Year of Birth
After providing these pieces of information, you can check your status online.
Although visa lottery applicants may receive an email from the U.S. government as a reminder to check their entrant status, it is essential to know that they will NEVER send a letter or an email giving information that they were a successful DV entrant.
The DOS Kentucky Consular Center does NOT email or mail notifications to DV lottery winners. No other private companies or organizations are authorized to notify DV program applicants of their winning entries. You can only learn about your status through the DV Entrant Status website.
Anti-Fraud Tips for Visa Applicants
The easiest way to avoid getting scammed is to read and follow the instructions on the Diversity Visa program's official website. On the DOS government website, you will find detailed information when applying for the green card lottery. The following are other tips that you can use when applying for the DV program:
- Be honest: Do not enter fake information or submit fake documents. Doing so could disqualify you from entering the program and keep you from going to the United States.
- Self Application: As much as possible, fill out the application forms yourself. If you need help filling out the forms, ensure that the person helping you is entering the correct information.
- Avoid deceptive visa consultants: Beware of consultants offering to increase your chances of securing a permanent resident visa by suggesting you fill in false information in your application. Note that providing false information could lead to disqualification. Also, avoid consultants who charge money, claiming to improve your chances of acquiring a visa.
- Use your email address: When entering your application, use your email address and ensure to keep the entry confirmation number. Your confirmation number is needed when checking the results of your visa application. If you do not have an email account, you can set it up from a smartphone or computer for free.
- Submit a single entry: Only submit one entry per eligible person. If you enter multiple entries at once, your application may get disqualified.
- Take your most recent photo: Ensure that your picture was taken within the last six months. Pictures that are more than six months old may get disqualified.
- Immediate family information: Once the DOS selects you to apply for a DV immigrant visa, you can only add your legal spouse and children to your application. Adding other family members or persons to your application may also lead to disqualification. This might also jeopardize your chance of ever going into the United States.
- Inform the Consular Officer: Immediately inform the consular officer at your interview if the visa consultant pressured you to add other persons, not your legal family members.
How Can I Report Scammers or Immigration Scams?
If you would like to file a complaint about an immigration scam, you may visit the Fraud Warning page of the DOS site. The Federal Trade Commission hosts this website, established through collaboration with consumer protection agencies from 17 nations.
You may also visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). It aims to make the reporting of cybercrime matters convenient and reliable. If you have additional questions or believe you were the victim of diversity visa fraud, consider speaking with an immigration attorney.
Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Law Attorney
Navigating the complexities of U.S. immigration laws and the Diversity Visa Program may feel daunting and overwhelming. The threat of visa scams increases the need for informed decisions and reliable guidance. If you are looking at applying for a diversity visa or encountered a potential immigration scam, consulting an immigration attorney helps protect your rights. They can provide guidance and clarity to ensure your visa application is legal and correctly filed.
FindLaw has a directory of immigration attorneys in every state and city. You can seek legal advice today.
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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.