Green Card / Diversity Lottery Scams
Recognize Them and what To Do If You Receive One
Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the
Rules, Avoid the Rip-Offs
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 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 commonly as the "green card
lottery", but the U.S. government NEVER uses this phrase, so that
is a clear tipoff to a scam) or increase your chances of winning the 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.
Starting in 2003, entries to the
must be submitted online. (This site is only accessible
during the application period.) Paper entries or mail-in requests will
not be accepted. Lottery entrants must include a passport-style digital
photograph and separate digital photographs of any spouse and children
under 21 years of age. Group photographs are not allowed. Check with the
State Department for technical requirements of the digital photograph.
Entries are accepted for a limited time.
For the DV-2010 Lottery (to be conducted in 2008), the
application period is November 1, 2008, through December 30,
2008. Check with the State Department for entry dates
for future DV lotteries.
Entrants may submit only one entry during
any particular DV lottery; those who submit more than one entry
will be disqualified. Spouses may submit separate entries,
however, if each meets the eligibility requirements. If only one
spouse is selected, the other may enter the country on the
Diversity Visa of the winning spouse.
The DV lottery has two eligibility
1. The entrant must be from an
eligible country. You must have been born in an
eligible country, or have parents who were born in eligible
countries and who were not residents of your country of
birth, when you were born. For example, your parents might
have lived temporarily in the ineligible country because of
Every year, the State Department
announces the countries whose natives are ineligible for
application. For the DV-2010 lottery, natives of the
following countries are not eligible to apply:
Canada, China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan),
Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India,
Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Korea,
United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent
territories, and Vietnam. Applicants should check with the
State Department to determine the ineligible countries for
future DV lotteries.
2. Entrants must meet an
education or training requirement. You will have met the education
requirement if you have a high school education or have
successfully completed a 12-year course of elementary and secondary
education. You will have met the training requirement if
you have at least two years of work experience within the past five
years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or
experience to perform.
Click here for a list of qualifying occupations.
Green Card Lottery Scams
According to lawyers at the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, some businesses and
attorneys misrepresent their services by saying that:
- they are affiliated with the U.S. government;
- they have special expertise or a special entry form that is
required to enter the lottery;
- their company has never had a lottery entry rejected;
- their company can increase an entrant's chances of "winning" the
- people from ineligible countries still are "qualified" to enter
In addition, some companies jeopardize an entrant's
opportunity to participate in the lottery by filing several entries.
These companies also may charge lottery-winning applicants substantial
fees to complete the application process.
See these examples
A delay in processing a winner's application can
ruin their chance for a green card because the State Department selects
more winners than there are visas available. The State Department awards
visas to winners on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, a
winning application is only valid for one federal fiscal year (October 1
- September 30): Winners of the DV-2005 lottery must apply for a visa
between October 1, 2004, and September 30, 2005.
Protecting Yourself from Fraud
The FTC says the best way to protect against green
card lottery scams is to understand how the State Department's lottery
- There's no charge to enter the green card lottery.
You can enter on your own at
the State Department's Web site. You'll need to answer
a few questions and provide passport-style digital photographs.
You'll get an acknowledgment from the State Department once you've
submitted your entry. Hiring a company or attorney to enter the lottery for you is your
decision, but unless you are a moron, it is a waste of money.
The person you pay will have to follow the same
procedure. And your chance of being selected is the same whether you
submit the entry or you pay someone to do it for you.
- Submit only one entry. If you submit more than
one, you will be disqualified.
- Selection of entries is random. Spouses who are
eligible for the DV lottery can apply separately; the "losing"
spouse can enter the country on the Diversity Visa of the "winning"
spouse. This is the only legitimate way to significantly increase
your chance of entering the U.S. through the DV lottery.
- Be alert to Web sites promising government travel or
residency documents online or by mail. Except for entering
the DV lottery, most applications for visas, passports, green cards,
and other travel and residency documents must be completed in person
before an officer of the U.S. government.
- Be thoughtful about who you send your personal documents
to. Unless you have an established relationship with a
business, do not mail birth certificates, passports, drivers'
licenses, marriage certificates, Social Security cards, or other
documents with your personal identifying information to businesses
promising to complete your application for travel or residency
documents. These businesses may be engaged in identity theft.
- Be skeptical of Web sites posing as U.S. government
sites. They may have domain names similar to government
agencies, official-looking emblems (eagles, flags, or other American
images like the Statue of Liberty or the U.S. Capitol), the official
seals or logos of - and links to - other government sites, and list
Washington, D.C., mailing addresses. If the domain name
doesn't end in ".gov," it's not a government site. Bogus
sites may charge for government forms. Don't pay; government forms
and instructions for completing them are available from the issuing
U.S. government agency for free.
For More Information
For details about the State
Department's Diversity Visa lottery:
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent
fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace
and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.
Click here to file a
Click here to get free
information on consumer issues, or
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other
fraud-related complaints into
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds
of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.