Virginia, US


Unfortunately, immigration-related fraud is a common occurrence. Unscrupulous individuals often target foreign nationals in attempts to obtain money or personal information. Foreign nationals are advised to take precautions to avoid becoming victims of immigration fraud.  In general, beware of any communication that claims to be from USCIS, DHS, or another immigration agency and that requests money or personal information to obtain a benefit or cure a purported violation in status. If you receive a communication that you believe is suspect, please contact your designated Fragomen professional.
The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery is an annual State Department program that makes 50,000 immigrant visas available to foreign nationals seeking U.S. permanent residence.  Each year, during an official registration period, millions of applicants submit online lottery registrations in hopes of being selected. Unfortunately, DV lottery fraud is very common. However, foreign nationals can and should take a few precautions to protect themselves.
  • Watch out for deceptive lottery websites. Foreign nationals planning to enter the DV lottery should be aware that the only authorized DV lottery website is located on the State Department website. The State Department does not use or authorize any outside individual or company to accept lottery applications or operate the lottery. But websites posing as official government sites or claiming to have State Department authorization abound. They should be avoided.
  • The State Department does not charge a fee for lottery registrations. A website, individual or company claiming there is a government fee to enter the lottery is fraudulent.
  • If lottery assistance is needed, seek competent advice. Though applicants may use a lawyer or other representative to prepare a lottery registration, they should be wary of commercial websites that claim to register applicants outside of the registration period or purport to be authorized by the State Department to accept registrations for a fee.
  • Beware of lottery e-mails, letters or faxes that claim to be from the State Department. The State Department does not send e-mails, letters or faxes about the DV lottery. The official website is the only legitimate source of information about lottery results and the only place to submit a lottery registration.
  • Be skeptical of any communication claiming a foreign national has won the DV lottery when he or she did not register, or registered in a previous year.
  • Avoid sending money or personal information to questionable individuals or companies.
  • Learn more about DV lottery fraud by visiting the websites of the State Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
If you have any questions about the DV lottery, please contact your designated Fragomen professional.
As discussed above, foreign nationals planning to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must register in the ESTA system in advance of travel.  Prospective VWP travelers must be aware that the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) registration site is the only authorized ESTA registration site.  CBP does not use or authorize any outside individual or company to accept ESTA registrations.  Nevertheless, websites posing as official government sites or claiming to have CBP authorization abound.  These should be avoided.
Another common type of immigration fraud occurs when unscrupulous individuals pose as officers of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and call foreign nationals claiming a discrepancy or problem in immigration records and pressuring victims to pay a “penalty” to have the issue rectified.  Victims are told to wire funds to an address the caller provides.  The perpetrators may possess personal information about the victim and may ask the victim to provide or “confirm” immigration information such as an I-94 number, an alien registration number or a visa control number.  USCIS has confirmed that officers never reach out to a foreign national over the phone nor ask for any form of payment or personal information. In the event of such a call, recipients are advised not to divulge any information nor forward any funds, and to hang up immediately. Those targeted by the scheme should contact law enforcement and  the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection. The USCIS page on common scams is accessible here.