Inept Middlemen Seek to Take Advantage of the Visa Lottery

By David North on July 24, 2010

Big disgraces in the immigration field beget little disgraces.

I was doing something on the internet the other day and was reminded of the long-term foolishness of America's Visa Lottery – it gives away 50,000 green cards every year to people who have no connection to the U.S., who are not refugees, and who bring neither needed skills nor money. They simply add to our burgeoning population. That's the big disgrace.

The terms and conditions of the Diversity Visa Lottery are spelled out in this government document.

The little disgrace, a parasite of the Visa Lottery, was what caught my attention on the web. One of hundreds like it, this one said "Green Card Lottery USA: Live and Work in the USA."

It goes on to say: "50,000 people and their families will Live, Work and Study in the USA." Well, no. It is not that 50,000 families, as implied, get the visas, there are 50,000 individual visas issued in total, to the lottery winners and to their immediate relatives. This is just one of the inaccuracies one encounters on this website.

The organization running the ad is USAGC, presumably standing for the United States of America Green Card. It has "European offices" in the southern (Greek) part of Cyprus, a "Turkish Office" in Istanbul, and a "USA mailing address" in Houston. The document sounds as if it had been written by someone using English as a second language.

For a fee – in British pounds – it offers to help you file for the lottery. There is a menu of fees, starting at 55 pounds, with higher fees for multiple entries in future years, all the way up to the deluxe level of £1,000, marked down to a mere £699 for ten years of entries plus 1,000 euros in legal expenses plus personal job search assistance. I opted for the lowest fee.

What would happen if this native-born (Chicago) U.S. citizen filed with these folks? Clearly I have no need for a green card and cannot imagine our government giving one to anyone already a citizen, but what would happen if I applied?

I decided that, for the first phase, I would play it straight. It asked me where I was born and I said the U.S.A. The web page responded, as it should have, that I was ineligible because of the nation of birth. But then it went on to say that maybe I could qualify through my spouse's nativity or that of my parents.

Apparently the USAGC website lumps the U.S., with Mexico, India, and China, and several others as nations whose citizens cannot qualify for the Diversity Lottery (because those places already send lots of immigrants and thus would not help diversify the immigrant flow.)

Someone from Mexico, with, say, Danish parents, could apply for the lottery, however, but the USAGC system does not, as it should, eliminate anyone born in the U.S. from further consideration.

So, the website wanted me to tell it where my parents were born.

At this point I decided to be a bit fanciful. The system gave me a long, long list of nations and colonies and asked me to choose one for the place of my late mother's birth. I opted for Bouvet Island, a never-populated, iced-over Norwegian possession near the Antarctic – no human has ever been born there. I gave my late dad's birthplace as another obscure South Atlantic Island, Ascension (a dependency of St. Helena), and decided to see what happened.

"David, Application Approved" was the message on the computer; I was encouraged to take the second step, which was to pay the £55, which I did with my credit card. (£55 actually equals about $85, but there was a discount and my credit card was charged a bit over $70.) Elsewhere in the system I was told that I was eligible to participate in the lottery.

The third step, which I did not take, was to provide USACG with the detailed information it needed to complete my formal Diversity Visa application. This is an internet-only application procedure. Had I done so, they presumably would have filed my application with the government for me when the lottery re-opens again this fall.

Having no faith that the State Department would understand that my claim that mother was born on Bouvet was a joke, I did not take that third step and have no intention of doing so.

USAGC's system thus took my money despite the facts that: 1) no one born in the U.S. is eligible for the program, and 2) no human was ever born on Bouvet. (Mother's birthplace was plain old Indianapolis.)

As I noted in another blog, the fee-collecting middlemen in the immigration business are a grubby lot, and in this case, and I am sure in many others, are often inept as well.

I did this a few days ago, and the money has been withdrawn from my credit card, but it is possible that USAGC will notice their systemic error and prod me for more information, or maybe, maybe, give me my money back. If so, it will be reported here.

By the way, though USAGC accepted my money, none of that will reach the U.S. Treasury. As pointed out in a CIS paper, the U.S. could collect a quarter of a billion dollars a year if it simply required a $20 check with each Diversity Visa application. There are usually about twelve million of them. The current practice is to collect fees only from those actually selected to receive one of the 50,000 visas.