Beware of US Visa Lottery Ads
Stabroek News
October 7, 2001

Dear Editor,

This is the month when millions of people all over the world are registering for the US Diversity Visa Programme (known informally as the Visa Lottery), hoping to be selected to apply for immigrant visas to the U. S.

Entries must be received at the Kentucky Consular Center between noon, Monday, October 1, 2001 and noon on Wednesday, October 31, 2001. Under this programme, 50,000 immigrant visas will be available to individuals selected at random by a computer-generated drawing and successfully screened for specified qualifications.

An applicant must have either a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education, OR two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.

The instructions for entering the lottery are simple. However, during a recent visit to Guyana, I was amazed that people were falling for carefully crafted but nevertheless misleading advertisements. With slick, attractive red/white/blue brochures, the advertisements are ensnaring people to send unreasonable fees for assistance in completing the lottery application, which any primary school graduate can complete.

People from Coast to Coast have uniformly claimed that brochures, with the likeness of US-looking postage stamp imprinted on the right, have been delivered to them by their mailman, though, mysteriously, there is no sign of any legitimate stamp or postage paid. Is there an arrangement with the Post Office for door-to-door deliveries of these brochures?

Advertisements are fine, and indeed an attorney may charge any amount that the market can bear. But when advertisements

are deliberately misleading, that's another story. One advertisement exhorts, "For faster entry . . .

simply email your information to..." Another promises that the application will be entered "at exactly the right time" to have the "best possible chance" of winning. However, The US State Department is very clear that all entries, received between noon, Monday, October 1, 2001 and noon on Wednesday, October 31, 2001, stand equal chances of winning.

One entity didn't wait for the US State Department regulations for this current lottery and printed brochures asking for a photograph (1.5" square) of the applicant. Those who responded would be interested to learn that the State Department regulations subsequently specified that the photograph size for this year's lottery is 2" square instead and should include photographs of the applicant's spouse and children (unmarried and under 21) as well.

For a single person, goes an advertisement, the cost is $65.US, but the reader is encouraged to register for the next lottery (for which regulations are not even out yet) at the rate of $110US, or even family rate of $150US!

Apart from promising to "PAY for the flight ticket for you and your spouse," this entity claims that "none of the applications" sent through its office were "disqualified." How does it know this information? After all, only "winners" are informed.

People are encouraged to secure the instructions for themselves from the US State Department website: http//travel. The people targeted by the visa lottery are those who I am sure have access to computers and have the intelligence to follow simple instructions.

On the other hand, if people want to pay for assistance in completing the application, they should at least know exactly what they are paying for and what their chances are. I would have felt a lot better if the advertisements were direct and honest rather than subtle and deceptive.

Yours faithfully,

Dolly Z. Hassan, Ph.D.

Supervising Attorney

Liberty Centre for Immigrants, Inc., Richmond Hill, NY