Seen and heard: Diversity Visa Lottery scams
Many people around the world dream of getting a “Green Card” that allows them to live and work in the United States. The U.S. Department of State runs the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery. People from certain countries who apply and are selected in a lottery drawing could qualify to be “Lawful Permanent Residents.” Unfortunately, the FTC has seen websites that claim to be affiliated with the program, but are not. If you’re thinking about applying to the Diversity Visa Lottery program, here’s what you should know:
- The period for applying to the 2015 and 2016 Diversity Visa Lottery programs is closed; applications are no longer being accepted. When the application program opens again next fall for the 2017 program you will only be able to apply online at www.dvlottery.state.gov. If you see an ad or another website that says you can apply through them, it’s a scam.
- There’s no cost to apply to the Diversity Visa Lottery program. Don’t pay for application forms or to submit your application online.
- The lottery drawing is random. No one can help you increase your chances of being selected. If you apply more than once, your application will be disqualified.
Ads for companies that claim they will help with the program's application are looking to take your money. If you pay, the companies may ask for more money to increase your chances of winning – but they can’t deliver on that promise. In many cases the companies never even transmit applicants’ information to the U.S. Department of State.
The FTC also has heard from people who applied to the Diversity Visa Lottery and gotten calls, emails, or letters saying that they won. This is a scam. The U.S. government will not call, email or send you a letter to let you know you were selected. The only way to know if you were selected to continue with the Diversity Visa process is to check your entrant status in the U.S. Department of State website. You don’t have to pay to check. If you applied to the 2015 program (between October 1, 2013 and November 2, 2013), you have until September 30, 2015 to check your entrant status. If you applied to the 2016 program (between October 1, 2014 and November 3, 2014), you can check beginning May 15, 2015.
If your entry is selected, you’ll have to pay some fees, but you can only do that in person and only at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. government will never ask you to send payment in advance by check, money order, or wire transfer.
Check out the program’s rules and procedures so that you know what to expect, when to expect it and from whom. If you see or hear someone trying to scam Diversity Visa applicants, report it to the FTC online at ftc.gov/complaint or in Spanish at ftc.gov/queja. You can also file a complaint by calling 1-877-382-4357.