An Irish immigration official has warned green card lottery applicants to remain vigilant for scams, as the 2014 Diversity Visa Program opened on Tuesday.

“At this time of year there are always online scams out there trying to tell you to pay for the free service,” Siobhan Dennehy, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC), told the Irish Voice.

“I would encourage people to seek reputable and free advice here at the center.”

“There is no way you should have to pay for this,” she said. Instead, Dennehy advises people to donate to the immigration center.

The Diversity Visa Program (DV-2014), more commonly known as the green card lottery, began accepting applications on Tuesday October 2 and will close at noon, EDT, Saturday, November 3, 2012. Some 55,000 permanent resident visas are offered each year to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

“We strongly encourage applicants not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter.  Heavy demand may result in website delays.  No entries will be accepted after noon, EDT, on November 3, 2012,” a statement from the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy said.

According to official DV-2011 figures, over 12 million people from the eligible countries submitted applications for the lottery. Some 6,848 people from the Republic of Ireland entered the DV-2011 draw. Of that, 201 applicants were selected and 94 approved.

Last year, over 7,500 people entered the draw and 138 were selected. Final approval figures are not yet available for DV-2013.

“Certainly the number of Irish winners has reduced,” Dennehy pointed out. “That being said, we would encourage people to enter.”

“You apply in 2012. If selected, you get called for interview in 2013 and you’re actual green card is processed in 2014.”

China, Canada, India and the UK are just a few of the countries excluded from the program, as more than 50,000 immigrants from each country arrived here in the past five years.

Applicants can only apply online through the official US Department of State website during the registration period. There is no fee involved. Once their application has been received, applicants are provided with a unique confirmation number. If the number is lost, there is no way to retrieve it.

Those selected will not receive notifications or letters by regular postal mail. Instead, on May 1st 2013, applicants must log onto the official DV-2014 website and input their confirmation number to determine whether they have been selected for further processing.

Dennehy advised that anyone confused by the application should contact the EIIC.

“Our mission is to let everyone know that we have a  full staff and attorney that are available for free to offer advice.”

“Direct any questions about technology to us.”

From her Florida based law practice, Irish immigration attorney Caro Kinsella, said that some diversity lottery hopefuls prefer to have a lawyer submit their application.

“People often have issues with uploading photos,” Kinsella, who is charging a $200 fee for the service, told the Irish Voice.

“We typically submit a few hundred applications every year.”

“We file the application correctly, we provide you with your confirmation number and when the lottery has generated a decision, we check the system and advise you on how to proceed,” said the Limerick native.

“People can go online and do it themselves,” Kinsella points out, “we offer the service for $200.”

Kinsella, is also petitioning the US Senate to pass the IRE Irish Immigration Bill, an alternative to Democrat Charles Schumer ‘s E3 Immigration bill. Once the online petition on  receives 5,000 signatures, she intends to approach three undisclosed legislators for support.

Irish green card winner Gary McLaughlin recommends that anyone interesting in living in the US should apply.

“I love it over here,” McLaughlin, who works as a production editor in Manhattan, told the Irish Voice.

“Nobody I knew had ever won, you always hear of someone but I have never physically met another winner,” said the Irish immigrant who moved here last February.

Originally from Dundalk Co. Louth, the 27-year-old applied during the DV-2010. He recalls the day he found out his application had been selected.

“I was in complete shock,” he told the Irish Voice.

“After that, everything was up in the air, but once the wheels were set in motion, I never looked back.”

McLaughlin, who moved here with his fiancé, said the couple find the cost of rent high, but think groceries are cheaper in comparison to Ireland.

Finding a job was difficult at first for the Louth native, but having a green card was a big asset, he says.

“It’s a door opener over here,” he told the Irish Voice. “Initially they [prospective employers] start thinking about sponsorship, but having a green card removes that barrier.”

As McLaughlin proves, everyone who enters is in with a chance, the EIIC encourages applicants with questions to consult the EIIC.

“Even though the numbers are small, there are few greater delights than when someone whom we have helped is successful,” Dennehy said.

“In our line of business, so many of our answers related to immigration queries are ‘No it’s not going to work.’”

She concluded: “When we have a winner, it’s a wonderful feeling.”

The Emerald Isle Immigration Center will be hosting free public immigration meetings to discuss the current diversity visa green card lottery, the deferred action for childhood arrivals program and other recent developments in immigration laws. For more information log onto

The 2014 Diversity Visa Program opened on Tuesday October 2Google Images