Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Congratulations! You just won the visa lottery

Dear XYZ,

"You are one of the 50,000 winners selected by the computer random draw from the 12.1 million entries registered in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a United States congressionally-mandated lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. It is also known as the Green Card Lottery."
Maybe you or someone you know has received such an email declaring you winner in the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program of the U.S. government. For those who are interested in living in the U.S. this is exciting news indeed, especially if they had applied. Interestingly however, sometimes the 'winner' may not even have applied for the DV lottery.Anyway you read on and the next thing is
"Although the Diversity Visa participation was free, the law and regulations require to every diversity visa winner to pay a visa processing fee of $879. The Diversity Visa (Green Card) is guaranteed upon receiving the payment. The per person fee for each Diversity Visa is $879, payable in U.S. dollars or equivalent of your local currency. This $879 fee is the only fee a winner needs to pay throughout the entire relocation process."

If you're smart you start to ask questions now, however the more gullible folks start a thanksgiving party and begin to look for ways to raise the money if they don't have it. For years I've been aware of the DV lottery scam and its various permutations however the number of inquiries I and colleagues have received this year on the issue is unprecedented.I am frightened to think what the number of inquiries suggests.First that the scammers have scaled up their operations and that they’ve done that because of the successes they've recorded. To confirm this, a colleague told me of someone who had already paid a substantial amount of money to these scammers before calling the U.S. Embassy to verify. And I ask, shouldn’t that be the first step? Like the former Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy Atim George always said "trust but verify."
Why do we think everything that reaches us via email or that we read on the internet is true? The first principle about cyberspace for me is caution. It's so uncontrolled that there are probably a lot of crazy people churning out crazier stuff. We do ourselves a lot of good if we check stuff first before acting and parting with our precious naira.
Now what's the true status of the DV lottery program?
  1. It's a program mandated by the United States Congress that makes available up to 55,000 diversity visas annually from random selection among all entries to persons who meet strict eligibility requirements from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Looks to me like with the rate of immigration to the U.S. by Nigerians we will soon no longer qualify judging by this criterion.
  2. No one including any organization or company outside of the United States government is authorized to notify DV applicants of their winning entry, or of next steps in the process.
  3. The State department does not notify successful applicants by letter or email. Applicants check their status at the website to find out if they were successful.
  4. Most important of all applicants will never be asked to pay any amount at any point in the process.
They say a word is enough for the wise.
Meanwhile here’s more information on the program from the State Department

Ask the Consul:How Does the Diversity Visa Lottery Work?

Answer:The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes up to 55,000 diversity visas available annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is a two-stage process:(1) the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery and (2) a visa interview. During the Lottery, persons from qualifying countries submit an electronic entry free of charge at the Lottery website, http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/,
during a month-long window, usually early October to early November. The entry must include exact biographical data on the entrant and all immediate family members at the time of submission. Only one entry is permitted per person. A computer-generated, random drawing chooses selectees to proceed to a visa interview. The confirmation numbers of winning entries are posted to the DV Lottery website above; official notifications are never sent by email or mail.
Once notified of their selection, the Kentucky Consular Center works with each selectee to schedule a visa interview. Selectees are not guaranteed a visa but only the right to have an interview to determine if they meet the minimum qualifications. Like other immigrants to the United States, DV applicants undergo a full medical and security screening. To receive a visa, DV applicants must pass these requirements and must have at least the equivalent of a U.S. high school education or have, in the past five years, two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.
Unfortunately, and increasingly, some websites try to scam potential entrants to the lottery. These websites attempt to require an entrant to pay for services and information about immigration procedures that are free on the Department of State website or through U.S. Embassy or Consulate websites. Additionally, these websites may require an entrant to pay for services they are unlikely to receive, such as fees for applications and visas. Information about these types of scams can be found on our website at http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1749.html Once scammed, entrants are unlikely to have their money returned and may be subject to identity fraud/theft. Scam victims have a few resources to report these crimes, through the Federal Trade Commission’s e-consumer website, http://www.econsumer.gov/ or the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, http://www.ic3.gov/.
The online registration period for the 2013 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2013) will begin at on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time, and conclude on Saturday, November 5, 2011, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time.

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