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Green Card Lottery Winners Not Winning in State Department Error

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

If you think you’ve won the lottery, you just may have to think again. Odds are slim to begin with – making a computer glitch, where 20,000 people thought they were winners of what's dubbed the “Green Card Lottery”, a tough reality.

At least 20,000 worldwide thought they’d hit the lottery, as big winners with the chance to legally head into the United States to live on a visa. As it instead turns out, the State Department offers a big uh-oh, apologizing for what the government department calls a computer error. The annual visa lottery is all being run -- again.

Believe or not, the State Department runs a lottery every year, allowing 50,000 wild-card visas to people internationally -- people who’d otherwise have next to zero odds for getting a traditional visa into the United States.

Roughly 15 million people had applied for the U.S. visas when the computer glitch occurred. Previous lottery losers are getting a second shot but many winners are finding out they’re not truly “winning”.

The State Department blames the visa lottery glitch on in-house programming, a data coding error, and says it’s sorry: "Any results previously posted and available through the website are considered invalid," says the agency. "We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused."

Officially the State Department’s free-for-all lottery is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery”, unofficially dubbed the “Green Card Lottery” – and many may find the concept itself almost as strange as the programming error. Many people aren’t familiar with the grab-bag instituted by Congress nearly two decades ago in 1994. The “Diversity Visa Lottery” boosts immigrant numbers into the U.S. – allowing visa entry from developing world countries and those with traditionally low rates of immigration to the nation. For this wild card lottery, visa applicants don’t have to have the usual family or employer backing of a sponsor.

For those unfortunate enough to reside within 19 countries that have already sent about 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years, those people aren’t allowed to participate in the “Green Card Lottery”. That ousts Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea and Vietnam.

While America battles border problems within its own states, few are probably thrilled to know of the huge numbers the country allows within its borders via the visa lottery.

The visa lottery first selects 90,000 names from the pool of online entrants which is then cut to nearly half – eventually it comes down to 50,000 winners who are chosen through interviews and other factors. The initial application period falls into a narrow time frame, lasting less than one month and beginning each fall. The current visa lottery application period ended November 3.

The programming code glitch from the State Department affected those visas to be awarded in 2012 -- accidentally choosing 90% of the applicants, those slated to move on to the next phase, from the very first batch of online applicants. Of nearly 15 million applicants, 90-percent were chosen from applications that were submitted online and within just two days of the October 5 start date.

Deputy assistant secretary of state David Donahue said: "These [lottery] results are not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of the [visa] entrants as required by U.S. law." He made an online video issuing apology and attempting to explain the circumstances.

22,000 people were provided the error of a lottery win to move on to the next step – but those are only the applicants provided incorrect status, having logged into the web site to check their applications. Incorrect results from the State Department were made available online May 1 and the problem wasn’t found for an additional four days.

Winners for the lottery re-run will be announced mid-July. The State Department isn’t taking new applications. With the United States as the most desirable country to immigrate, there are a lot of takers – looking to permanently relocate.

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