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By Erica Virtue—

Faced with one of the highest rates of visa fraud in the world, the United States Embassy in Kingston is trying another tack to shut down the operations of con artists scamming millions of dollars from thousands of desperate Jamaicans.

Five years after a secret cable from the embassy in Kingston revealed that American officials in Jamaica had seen a spike in the number of sham visa applications detected after it introduced a new facial recognition software, the scammers are at it again.

This time, the embassy has issued a warning to Jamaicans who use conmen to provide them with fraudulent documents to enhance their chances of getting a US visa that they could be banned from entering America for the rest of their life.

“The US Embassy in Kingston is a frequent target for fraud committed by individuals who apply for visas. In fact, Kingston has one of the highest levels of US visa fraud in the world,” said the embassy in response to questions from The Sunday Gleaner.

“The US Embassy wants everyone to know that applying for a visa is not as difficult as some people think. There is no need to seek illegitimate assistance with your visa application. The results of doing so could be permanent and very painful,” the response continued.

However, when the lies are discovered at the embassy and the visas are denied, the applicants are not reimbursed the money which they are required to pay up front.

Visa Scammers

U.S.Visa Scam

Determined to urge Jamaicans not to spend this money which they often can’t afford, the embassy is to embark on a massive media campaign.

The embassy “is seeking to obtain the services of an advertising agency, media/public relations firm or other organisation with the necessary expertise to develop and execute comprehensive anti-fraud media, media advertising, public-outreach campaign that encourages visa applications to be honest in applying for their US visas, and warn against visa fixers who charge illegal fees”.

‘Tell the truth’ campaign

The embassy said the life of the media campaign could be indefinite.

“The campaign will run for several months at a minimum, given the scale of fraud committed against the US Embassy … .”

According to the embassy, the message of the campaign will be for applicants to tell the truth. It said this is a new way to send the same message it has always had about the visa process.

“Tell the truth. You don’t need to ‘pretty up’ your visa application to qualify for a visa – in fact, you may be permanently refused a visa if you do. Avoid the ‘visa fixer’.

“Hundreds of people every year lose vast amounts of money to visa scammers, who tell their clients to lie about their job, their salary, their family ties, their reason for travel, etc. The visa fixers become wealthy and their clients rarely get visas.”

The embassy argued that it is not difficult to apply for and secure a visa. It is urging prospective applicants to follow the process step by step and be honest.

Avoid ‘visa fixers’

Jamaicans in line at the US Embassy in Kingston

Jamaicans in line at the US Embassy in Kingston

Jamaicans are also being urged to be honest, and stay away from people who say they can “help” you get a visa.

“No one could guarantee anyone a visa,” and anyone who says so “would be lying,” added the embassy.

Hundreds of scamming operations have been shut down by police operations in raids across the island in recent months.

The police have found machines which are used to produce fraudulent documents, including credit card and fake job letters for prospective applicants to enhance their applications.

In the 2009 cable, the embassy in Kingston had reported that at least two civil servants were among the many Jamaicans found with fraudulent documents at its visa windows.

According to embassy, 42 per cent of the immigrant visa cases probed by its Fraud Prevention Unit during March to August 2009 were fraudulent, while 27 per cent of all non-immigrant visa cases handled by the unit during that same period turned out to be shifty.


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