Civil service Green Card offer probed
By SCOTT McKENZIE
SENIOR Hong Kong civil servants have been offered the chance to obtain a US Green Card from a service being investigated in the United States and Europe by Immigration and Naturalisation Service agents.
US officials in Hong Kong yesterday confirmed they had concerns about the service offered by the United States Immigration Counsel, which was charging a 'transaction fee' of US$350 (HK$2,700) to 'start the immigration visa process'.
Application forms from the company began appearing in Hong Kong letter boxes about seven weeks ago but, in the past week, dozens more have surfaced.
A US Consulate-General spokesman said the letters had been posted in Hong Kong, had a California address on the letterhead and a return address in Amsterdam on the back of the envelopes.
The letters begin by congratulating the recipient and his family on having the chance to receive a 'Permanent Visa-Green Card', but a statement from the consulate-general distanced the Government from the offer.
'We wish to state emphatically that the person or persons calling themselves the 'United States Immigration Counsel' is not an agent of the United States Government,' it said.
'Receipt of a letter from this organisation does not mean that you have won the visa lucky draw.' It also made clear that the Department of State's National Visa Centre was the only office which officially notified entrants that they had won the Green Card lottery.
A source at the consulate-general said Hong Kong-based officers of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service would not become involved because the scheme was centred in the US and Amsterdam.
This year's deadline for submission of applications in the US visa lottery, a free process, was on March 1.
There was no listing of the company's telephone number in California, according to the international directory.