— Anti-Corruption News Story Curated by Anti-Corruption Digest International Risk & Compliance News

For the last two years, it has been my privilege to serve as the Consul at the Embassy of the United States of America in Baku. Living and working in Azerbaijan is a pleasure as I experience your rich and ancient culture every day, including through talking to Azerbaijani citizens who want to travel to the United States to experience my country’s culture.

One of America’s key values is our diversity. U.S. citizens and lawful residents come from literally every country and speak nearly every language in the world. The importance of diversity was reflected in United States law in 1990, when 50,000 immigrant visas were made available each year to those selected in the Diversity Visa (DV) Program. And it’s free to apply.

An individual selected as part of the DV Program receives a rare and valuable opportunity. They, along with their spouse and all unmarried children under 21 years old, can apply to immigrate to the United States, where they can work and live permanently and ultimately qualify to become U.S. citizens.

Unfortunately, dishonest and corrupt individuals in many countries use the DV Program to try to take advantage of people, including in Azerbaijan. Recently I have seen an increase in the number of individuals applying here in Baku through so-called “Green Card” organizations and other companies. But in spite of what these companies often say, using them to submit your DV Program application does not increase your chances of being selected at all, costs you money, and in reality can significantly harm your chances of immigrating or even traveling to the United States.

Once applicants give their biographic information to one of these companies, they often continue to enter these people year after year, even without permission. If applicants are selected, these “Green Card” companies charge outrageous fees for them to access their account — something that is free if they apply on their own. Often these companies enter incorrect applicant information. A person could be selected in the DV Program, pay large fees to a “Green Card” company, and then be disqualified because their application contained inaccurate personal information. Who knows your personal details better than you? Why risk putting your application in the hands of someone who doesn’t care about you, but only wants your money?

Source: U.S. Consul on how to avoid Visa fraud