Sun | Jul 24, 2016

Sceptical of visa lottery

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Dear Ms Walker-Huntington:

Good day to you. My sister has filed for me to get a United States of America (USA) green card just last month. Today, I received an email stating that I won the US Visa lottery. I am very sceptical of scams and wondered if this is real. Do you have any way of finding out if this is really from the State Department, or a scam?

I would be very grateful.

- C.W.

Good day, Ms Walker-Huntington:

I need your help in tell if a document is legitimate. I had applied for the visa lottery since 2005 when I was living in St Kitts.

I have now returned to Jamaica and on checking my email I saw an email that I won the lottery. I'm just a bit concerned about sending money to Western Union on behalf of the US government. I was hoping that you may shed some light on this document by investigating if this document is true. Looking forward for your response.


- L.R.L

Dear CW & LRL:

I have decided to consolidate your questions as they both concern the United States Visa Lottery and were both received within three weeks of each other.

Every year, the United States (US) government operates the Diversity Visa Lottery through which they award 55,000 green cards. The purpose of the lottery is to award green cards to persons who are from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the US. It is a random selection of the hundreds of thousands of applications received each year by the US State Department.

Jamaicans are not eligible for the visa lottery along with several other countries that have sent significant numbers of immigrants who have migrated to the US within the last few years.

To be eligible for the visa lottery, you must be from an eligible country and you must meet the education or work-experience requirement. You also have to be otherwise admissible to the US. To apply for the lottery during the entry period, you must do so online at You can apply on your own or you can seek the assistance of an attorney to assist you. If you are selected as a winner of the lottery, you can proceed on your own or hire a lawyer to work on your behalf.

You should only enter once for each year, submitting more than one application each calendar year will lead to disqualification. You can, however, enter each year the lottery is conducted. If you are not selected for the year you entered, your application is not placed into contention for subsequent years. The spouse and children (under 21 years old) of the principal applicant are eligible for derivative benefits under this programme.

It is important to note that hiring a lawyer will not assure you are selected, and if you are selected a lawyer cannot make the process go faster or guarantee you a green card. There are also several companies that are in business, claiming they can make the process faster - this is not true.

The entry period for the visa lottery is usually 30 days and runs from October to November of the current year for visas in two years. Winners are posted on the US Department of State's website the following year. Example: you apply in 2010, view the results in 2011 for visas in 2012. Unfortunately, the results that were posted on the State Department's website on May 1, 2011 have been rescinded by the State Department because they were arrived at in error. The new results will be posted on or about July 15, 2011. In previous years, winners of the lottery were notified by mail.

sharp increase

There has been a sharp increase in fraud associated with the visa lottery and persons have to be extremely careful not to respond to email notifications of winning and, most importantly, not to send any money by wire transfer, e.g. Western Union, to the US government. Also, be careful of persons claiming they can still get you qualified although you are a citizen of an ineligible country.

The US government is acutely aware of all the fraud associated with the visa lottery and you are urged to avail yourselves with the resources they provide to guide with the visa lottery and how to avoid the many scams that are in place. A website from the US government always ends in '.gov' and any email purporting to be from the US government must end in '.gov'. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's web page for information on how to protect yourself from scams in this area.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esquire is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law in Florida in the areas of immigration, family, corporate and personal injury law. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.