05.08.2004 General News

Visa lottery applicants cry foul against US Embassy

By Chronicle
Visa lottery applicants cry foul against US Embassy
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A big demonstration is to hit the U.S. Embassy in Ghana by numerous Diversity Visa (DV) lottery applicants who feel cheated by the consular section by their continued failure to give visas and refund the issuance-fee.

The demonstration is to bring to the notice of the government the constant exploitation in monetary terms and the rabid humiliation they undergo at the embassy as DV applicants.

The aggrieved visa applicants, who stormed The Chronicle offices said the US Embassy, like others, was choked with applications for visas but with the introduction of the DV by the US government, the number of visa applications had soared to triples, if not quadruples.

The applicants stressed that since 2002, an issuance fee of ¢900,000 or $100 had been added to the multiples of fees charged before the processing of visas at the consular section of the US Embassy, where thousands flocked daily.

Notwithstanding these, applicants who were accepted were subjected to grilling interviews to provide evidence of documents and professional competence, which in most cases were rejected by the consulate as most applicants have asserted.

In their accusations, the DV. applicants hinted that around 5,000-7,000 applicants won the lottery but through no fault of theirs, just a few were considered for visas, with the rest losing their hard-earned incomes to the consulate year after year with no one caring a hoot about their pitiable plight.

Now they say enough is enough. They described this as highly exploitative and naked cheating, especially with issuance-fees when flimsy reasons like misplacement of biological data and disqualification based on signature were assigned by the consulate staff when pictures on application forms were not different from applicants who appeared for the visas at the Embassy.

Speaking on behalf of the group, a businessman, Nana Bonsu, said ironically the issuances fees which were only collected when visas were approved or issued were never refunded by the consular section, thereby cheating the applicants.

He said “some of the disappointed applicants become traumatized with their millions of cedis wasted in the chase of DV lottery visas.”

He reiterated that the DV applicants who won their lotteries in US at times were unaware that they would undergo the visa hassle and bustles here, and had always accused Madam Karen Walts Davies of the DV Unit and her staff of open bias, naked cheating and callous infringement on their rights, which was against the rule and spirit of USA policy at the Kentucky Consular Center, where all applicants in Africa including Ghanaians applied for the lottery since its inception, years ago.

Nana Bonsu observed that most of the failed applicants who were fighting for the demonstration had been waiting for their visa for not less than five months, with the usual “go and come” syndrome to the discomfort of the applicants and the pleasure of the consulate staff.

“Unfortunately with their perpetual anxiety so high, some applicants secure loans once they win the lottery from Kentucky USA only to have their dreams of traveling to US shattered at the consulate after wasting borrowed millions from relations, banks and friends to satisfy numerous demands at the consulate as stipulated by DV rule assigned by the home office,” he added.

Applicants alleged that marriages of spouses and families were disintegrating because of the ruse at the consulate, and that marriage visas when filed could take between five to ten years, a calamitous situation most spouses have endured.

“Abuse therefore cannot be tolerated,” an aggrieved applicant said. “The US still prides herself as an epitome of rights, freedoms and justices and where are they?”

The Information Officer of the US Embassy in Ghana, Ms Susan Parker-Burns, when contacted by the paper said the consular section encountered significant fraud involving DV cases.

She said, “As we approach the end of DV 2004 on 30 September, the consular section is closing out cases where fraud investigations were conducted and applicants found to be ineligible for diversity visas.”

She advised that any applicant who felt he or she had been mistreated should address these concerns to the embassy, and be as specific as possible.

Ms Parker-Burns noted that it would be interesting for Ghanaians to know how many people's diversity visas were approved each year.

“Find out their view of the process. Freddy Adu, the American football superstar, is an obvious success story, but there are many others,” she added.

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