Articles Posted in Diversity Visa Lottery

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640px-DV_eligible_countries.pngThe U.S. Department of State (DOS) will open registration for the 2014 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2014) on October 2, 2012. The program is also known as the “Green Card Lottery.” Registration will remain open until November 3. Prospective immigrants from qualifying countries must submit an application electronically through the DOS website during that time period. Applicants who meet the criteria for the program may then be eligible for one of 55,000 immigrant visas. Selection in the lottery does not guarantee that an applicant will receive a green card, making the overall probability of any individual obtaining a green card through the program rather low.

Congress created the Diversity Visa (DV) program as a way of providing immigration opportunities to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. It creates a separate class of immigrants, “diversity immigrants,” in addition to family- and employment-based immigrants. The first diversity visas were available for the 1995 fiscal year. A total of 55,000 immigrant visas are available through the DV program every year. Available visas are apportioned among six geographic regions: Africa; Asia; Europe; North America; Oceania; and the Caribbean, Central and South America. Beginning in fiscal year 2000, five thousand diversity visas are reserved for use under the program established by the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA).
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435236_72050185_12182011.jpgThe Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law Initiative, a joint project of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and five other federal agencies, aims at educating both documented and undocumented immigrants about recognizing immigration scams. USCIS formally announced the campaign at its Newark office in early December. The campaign will start in seven U.S. cities, including New York City.

More and more individuals and businesses who lack the credentials or authority to render legal assistance are targeting immigrants for what appears to be help preparing applications for immigration benefits. In reality, these scammers pocket the immigrants’ money and leave them in a worse position than before. An immigrant might miss an important filing deadline or even end up in removal proceedings if they seek help from the wrong people.

The Star-Ledger tells the story of a Honduran immigrant who fell prey to a common scam that targets Latin Americans. Sagario Mendoza, a 48 year-old mother of three had lived in Newark for five years when she sought immigration assistance from a “notario.” In many parts of Latin America a “notario publico” is a licensed legal professional, authorized to perform many of the same services as an attorney. In the United States, a “notary public” has authority from the government for a very limited set of duties, usually to administer oaths and witness signatures. People advertise their services as “notarios” to Latin American immigrants, creating the false impression that they can offer legal assistance with immigration applications. Only licensed immigration attorneys can offer legal assistance with immigration documents in New Jersey. Mendoza learned that the “notario” had taken her for $1,000 and never filed any documents on her behalf. She now faces the risk of deportation.

Another common scam is an advertised promise by a business guaranteeing benefits such as a green card or employment authorization. They often charge a high fee to fill out and file immigration applications and claim they can obtain a faster processing time. Websites that resemble official government immigration agency websites also promise fast turnarounds on applications. They may charge a fee to download official immigration forms, then charge another fee to assist in filling out the forms. This is a sure sign of a scam, as all forms are free to download from USCIS’s website.
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