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Consular officers and cables from Addis Ababa, Dhaka, and Warsaw cited the involvement of the visa industry in organizing fake DV marriages. The officers in Addis Ababa believed that arranging DV marriages was the greatest money maker for visa agents. If an applicant cannot pay a visa agent’s exorbitant fees, a lesser fee can be arranged if the applicant marries a person who has also paid a fee to the agent. The visa agents provide the new couples with fake documentation to establish the marriage and coach them on how to answer questions about the relationship in the visa interview. Officers in Warsaw obtained a “cheat sheet” from some Ukrainian applicants detailing how to prepare for the consular officer’s questions. Moreover, the fraud prevention unit at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine learned of a visa consultancy in western Ukraine that offered, for approximately $14,500, to set up a fake marriage between a client and a DV winner. The arrangement was based on fake documents and months of preparation before the visa interview. If the couple’s visa application was denied, most of the money would be returned to the client.
For example, in order to prevent applicants’ notification letters from being stolen, officials from FPP said that they were considering alternate ways of notifying DV applicants in countries such as Ukraine and Bangladesh, but that a strategy had yet to be implemented. Some consular officers we interviewed suggested that KCC should send the notification letter in an unmarked envelope or that KCC send the notification letter directly to post and require applicants to come to the embassy or consulate to pick it up
According to a Warsaw cable, Ukrainian DV applicants said that corrupt government officials in Ukraine were collaborating with visa facilitators to provide fraudulent documents.
Consular officers in Accra, Dhaka, Lagos, and Warsaw cited issues with KCC’s notification letters that contributed to such abuse. They said that visa agents frequently list their own address on the lottery entry so that the notification letter comes directly to them, giving them control over the application. With the winning notification letter in hand, the agents can then demand thousands of dollars from the applicant in exchange for the letter; an August 2006 cable from the U.S. embassy in Accra cited an example where agents charged $2,500 for such an exchange, while consular officers in Dhaka suspected that the fee could range between $10,000 and $20,000. In our observation of DV adjudication interviews in Warsaw, consular officers pointed out several applicants whose applications did not list their own personal address, but rather the same P.O. box in Ukraine, which the officers attributed to a visa facilitator. An October 2006 cable from Warsaw noted that hundreds of Ukrainian DV applications were linked to the same P.O. box. Moreover, consular officers in Bangladesh and Nepal said that some letters, which conspicuously bear a U.S. postmark and KCC’s return address, were intercepted by postal employees or stolen out of the mail, resulting in the letter being held for ransom. Also, some visa agents enter individuals into the DV lottery without their knowledge. For example, consular officers in Ukraine told us they suspected that visa agents bribe local officials for biographic data to enter potentially qualified applicants without their knowledge, and then attempt to extort money in exchange for the notification letter if one of the applicants is selected in the lottery. A March 2007 cable from the U.S. embassy in Dhaka noted that, in Bangladesh, visa agents posted fake job advertisements to collect biographic data and enter individuals without their knowledge. If one of these individuals won the lottery, the visa agent would either extort money in exchange for the notification letter or threaten to steal the individual’s identity. A consular officer in Dhaka said that the diversity visa is referred to as the “Visa of Tears” by some Bangladeshis because of the suffering associated with it.