Personal Finance

Action Line: Be wary of visa lottery programs for ‘green card’

A reader: I have a relative that is in need of a green card. She has been offered to participate in a lottery program. Do you know if anything like this really exists or is just another scam to cheat some unknowing person out of hard earned money?

Action Line: We live in the best country in the world and we know that there are many people wanting to get a green card so that they can work and live in the United States. We did find that there is actually a Diversity Visa Lottery. This program is available through the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. The period for applying for 2015 and 2016 is closed, however in 2017 you may apply online here: There is no cost for the program.

Without more information, I cannot tell you if your lottery is a scam. But I can give you some sound advice on what to watch for so that you can identify the offer for yourself.

According to the FTC, if you see an ad or another website that says you can apply through them, it is a scam. FTC has had reports that people who have actually applied for the Diversity program have received calls, emails and letters saying that they have won the lottery. The U.S. government will not call, email or send you a letter. The only way you will know if you are selected is to check your entrant status here: Once you have truly been accepted, there will be some fees. However, you can only pay the fees in person and only at your U.S. embassy or consulate. You will never be allowed to send in a check, money order or any form of payment. It has to be done in person.

You may also be able to find assistance through:

U.S. Department of Justice

American Bar Association

Sometimes, these organizations provide attorneys who offer services at reduced fee or no fee at all.