News / Europe

US Reveals Mass Visa Fraud in Ukraine

Ukrainian passport
Ukrainian passport
A new report by the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Inspector General says organized fraud rings masquerading as travel agencies have taken control of the Diversity Visa program in Ukraine.

The report, released Friday, outlines a pervasive and sophisticated fraud scheme affecting the U.S. visa lottery program as well as the intimidation and extortion of Ukrainian citizens.

The United States awards 55,000 Diversity Visas annually to the citizens of countries with historically low immigration rates to the U.S. They are granted through a random lottery system that does not take into account the applicants’ family relations, professional or personal background.

The fraud rings “buy, steal, or obtain from public sources personal information about Ukrainian citizens,” the report says. 

The OIG does not identify which groups are carrying out the fraud, but says they have a vast impact. The U.S. embassy in Kyiv estimates the groups are entering the names of as much as 80 percent of the population of western Ukraine into the online visa program, and continuing to enter them year after year. This happens often without the citizens’ permission or knowledge, preventing them from entering the visa lottery on their own because the computer system deletes duplicate applications.

The fraud rings then have access to the confirmation number assigned online to the visa applicants, so if the U.S. State Department grants a visa to one of the applicants, only the criminals can facilitate the process.

The OIG report says the criminals then contact the hundreds of Ukrainians selected and demand they sign a contract promising to pay up to $15,000 to get the confirmation number to pursue the immigrant visa application.

If the Ukrainian wants to pursue the visa but cannot afford the fee, the criminals may insist he or she enter a sham marriage with someone who wants to immigrate to the U.S. and has enough money to pay the fraud ring. The criminals might even demand the visa winner get a divorce from their actual spouse and get married to someone else willing to pay.

The extortion does not end when the visa is awarded and the Ukrainian moves to the U.S. According to the OIG, the criminal groups take control of the immigrant’s U.S. social security card and social security number for further exploitation. They also demand the new immigrants pay back the costs incurred by the fraud rings to get them to the U.S. Failure to pay, the OIG, says, has resulted in threats against relatives in Ukraine.

U.S. officials have made efforts to combat the fraud, including changing the interview questions to try to trip up applicants coached by the criminal gangs, but corruption persists.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yulia from: USA
November 09, 2013 2:11 PM
No wonder I was unable to win a green card in 8 years of playing. So as my mom, my aunt or my sister-in-law. Odds are way down because of a half of Ukrainian being entered by criminals...

The question is: I'm sure that US knows who exactly is involved in this scam - why don't they do something? Or at least change the process for Ukrainian applicants which will prevent scammers from entering unaware people? Charge $2 per application? Apply in person at the Embassy? Apply by mail with a copy of the passport required in addition to online registration?.. Yes, it's probably more work for US consular office but this is fighting the crime we are talking about! And saving poor unaware people from being terrorized by a criminal group! Plus, it might actually decrease the number of cases they have to process when only people who actually want to immigrate will apply.

by: Handy Andy from: Kiev
October 30, 2013 12:07 AM
I would hate to win like that. I would not even enter for free. I studied in USA. Thank you no. Why ?

by: KGB from: UA
October 29, 2013 9:55 AM
This has been going for at least 20 years now.

by: Doug from: Kiev
October 29, 2013 7:39 AM
People from these agencies go around in college dormitories, asking students for their personal information and then entering them year after year - often without their knowledge. If they win, they need to pay:(

by: David from: Kiev
October 29, 2013 3:15 AM
Sounds like something the current Government of Ukraine would do as a favor business for friends and family. There are no rules in Ukraine. This is just one small example of the daily scams that run daily with the blessing of Ukraine's mafia leadership.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs