Green Card Scams and Diversity Lottery Frauds

What is the U.S. Green Card / Diversity Lottery
and how does it work?

Diversity / Green Card Lottery Summary

The Legitimate DV Lottery

Each year, the State Department conducts a lottery through its DV program to distribute applications for 50,000 immigrant visas. Winners of the lottery have a chance to apply for an immigrant visa, which can be used to enter the U. S. Winners are selected randomly, and there is no fee to enter the lottery. Scroll down this page for a detailed explanation.

Diversity Lottery Scams

If you or someone you know is trying to get a green card - the right to live in the United States permanently - be on the lookout for scams - out-and-out frauds, just looking to lie and cheat you out of your savings.  See this page for more information about and examples of the Green Card Lottery scams. And then there are unscrupulous businesses and attorneys. They'll claim that, for a fee, they can make it easier to enter the U. S. State Department's annual Diversity Visa (DV) lottery (also known as the "green card lottery") or increase your chances of winning the DV lottery. This is nonsense; no lawyer or business can increase your odds of winning.  See this page for more information about paid lottery submission services.

The Diversity Visa Lottery

Under the Immigration Act of 1990, the Diversity Visa program makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas to people with the equivalent of a high school education or two or more years of work experience or training in an appropriate trade, who were born in countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

From millions of qualifying applicants, the State Department randomly selects approximately 90,000 lottery "winners," who may then apply for visas at the consular offices nearest them. At these offices, about 45 percent of the winners fail to meet the minimum educational or work experience or training requirements, fail to supply the required medical information, or fail to complete the additional required paperwork either completely or on time. For the rest of the fiscal year after the lottery takes place, the qualifying winners are issued Diversity Visas on a first-come, first-serve basis until the requisite 50,000 are issued.

There is no fee to enter the DV lottery. Starting in 2003, to enter the DV lottery, applicants must apply electronically on an online application form by providing their basic biographical information, including a digital passport photo, through a dedicated State Department Web site . The Web site is open only during a specific time period (this year, from November 1 through December 30 each year). In previous years, applicants supplied the requested information via mail to the State Department's Consular Center in Kentucky (no specific forms were required). Only one registration per person is allowed (however, a husband and wife may each, if eligible, submit one entry). Multiple applications by a single individual can result in that person being disqualified from the lottery that year. Only lottery winners are notified by the State Department. Applicants not selected may apply again in subsequent years' lotteries but must submit a new application to do so.

Consumer Education

To help consumers more fully understand the visa lottery program and avoid potential fraud, the FTC has developed a "Facts for Consumers" document that is now available on the Commission's Web site as a link to this press release.

The FTC warns consumers that some businesses and attorneys use misrepresentations and unfair practices to promote services to consumers who hope to win a chance to apply for an immigrant visa through the DV lottery program. The best way to protect yourself from green card lottery scam artists is to understand how the State Department's lottery works.

  • Entering the green card lottery is straightforward and costs nothing. You can enter on your own at the State Department Green Card website. Hiring an attorney or company to enter the lottery for you is your decision. Your chances of being selected are the same whether you submit an application yourself or pay someone to do it for you, however.
  • Do not submit more than one entry. If you do, you will be disqualified automatically, even if someone else submitted the multiple entries.
  • Be truthful and accurate in all responses; lies are almost always discovered sooner or later and then you will be deported.
  • No special techniques or loopholes are available to increase your chances of winning the green card lottery. Selection of entries in the lottery is random.
  • Be wary of Web sites posing as government sites. They may have domain names similar to government agencies, have official-looking eagles, flags or other American iconic images (such as the Statue of Liberty or the Capitol), have the official seals or logos of and links to other government sites, and list Washington, D.C. mailing addresses. Unless the domain name ends in ".gov" it is not a government site, but is a private, commercial site.

More information about the State Department's Diversity Visa lottery can be found on their Web site and their Destination USA Web site. People may also call the State Department's Visa Services' Public Inquiries Branch at 202-663-1225. This number has recorded information with an option to speak with a visa specialist during most

business hours. Persons overseas should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate office.

Summary of Tips

Avoid the scammers; keep these points in mind:

  • There is only one website where you can apply legally; it is operated by the U.S. government state department, which is why the website address ends in ".gov" Click here to go to that website.

  • Instructions are available in many languages, including English,  ArabicBengaliFrenchRomanianRussian, and Spanish.

  • Winners are notified by the US Government by surface mail only, never by email.

  • You cannot win if you did not complete and submit and application first.

  • There is no charge to register. The form is simple enough that unless you are illiterate, you should not pay anyone to help you; it is unnecessary.

  • The DVLottery is held every year and it is numbered by the year in which visas are issued to the qualified winners.

  • You can only apply once per year, but you may reapply every year.

  • The next application period is for the DV2010 lottery.  Applications will be take in the Fall and Winter (October - December) of 2008 for applications that will be granted in September / October 2010.


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