Computer glitch forces U.S. to cancel visa lottery results

More than 90 percent of green card lottery winners applied on Oct. 5 or Oct. 6, 2010

A computer glitch at the U.S. Department of State means there's some bad news for thousands of people who thought they'd been selected in this year's green card visa lottery, which gives a select few a bump to the front of the immigration line.

It turns out that the country's 2012 Diversity Lottery wasn't fair. In a videotaped statement posted to the Web, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services David Donahue said the results, announced by his department earlier this month, "did not represent a fair random selection of the entrants, as required by U.S. law."

"Although we received large numbers of entries every day during the 30-day registration period, a computer programming error caused more than 90 percent of the selectees to come from the first two days of the registration period," he said.

That means that people who turned in their applications on Oct. 5 or Oct. 6, 2010, had a much better chance of winning the lottery than everyone else.

State Department representatives couldn't immediately be reached for comment. According to an AFP report, 22,000 people who thought they'd won the lottery are now finding out that there will be a new drawing.

More than 12 million people applied for the green card lottery last year. The program is designed to even out the mix of U.S. immigrants by giving some people from certain countries priority in the yearslong wait for a U.S. work visa, also known as a green card. There are between 50,000 and 55,000 winners each year.

Entrants will have to wait until July 15, when the State Department will announce results based on a new, random algorithm.

"We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused," Donahue said.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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