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Computer Glitch Voids Green-Card Lottery – WSJ.com

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730804576322990621639716.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

Associated Press

WASHINGTON—For a few joyful days, more than 20,000 people around the world thought they had won a lottery that gave them a chance to come and live legally in the U.S. On Friday, the State Department sent its regrets.

Computer problems had negated the lottery’s results, it said. The exercise will have to be repeated, and those announced as winners will have to wait it out with the previous losers.

The decision reopens competition for 50,000 wild-card visas for people who otherwise would have little hope of qualifying. About 15 million had applied, so the bad news for 20,000 was good news for many others who had thought they had lost.

The glitch, which the State Department blamed on an in-house programming error, dashes the hopes of people like Max, a 28-year-old German man. He recently had checked a department website and found what he had hoped for: Out of a random drawing with overwhelmingly long odds, he was one of the lucky few who might get one of the visas.

“It’s like you won $100,000, and then they just take it away from you, and it’s gone,” said Max, who would give only his first name for fear that full identification might jeopardize his chances in future applications.

The State Department apologized.

“Any results previously posted and available through the website are considered invalid,” the department said in a statement. “We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused.”

The drawing, which the State Department calls the Diversity Visa Lottery, is an annual free-for-all established by Congress in 1994 to increase the number of immigrants from the developing world and from countries with traditionally low rates of emigration to the U.S. Applicants don’t have to have the usual family or employer sponsor.

The lottery selects 90,000 names from a pool of online entrants. That number is winnowed to 50,000 winners through attrition, interviews and educational and occupational rules.

For visas to be awarded in 2012, applicants had to submit entries between Oct. 5 and Nov. 3, 2010. The glitch meant that among 14.7 million entries, about 90% of the people picked to move on to the next step came from applications submitted the first two days.

“These results are not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of the entrants as required by U.S. law,” said David Donahue, the deputy assistant secretary of state whose office oversees the lottery.

Mr. Donahue recorded an online video to apologize and explain the situation.

The now-invalidated results became available online May 1, and about 1.9 million people, including the German, Max, had checked before the problem was uncovered May 5. Of those who looked up their status, about 22,000 were informed erroneously that they had been selected to move to the next step in the process, the department said.

A new lottery will be held from the existing pool of entries with winners announced in mid-July. Applicants don’t need to re-enter. No new entries will be accepted.

The lottery has taken on an almost mythical quality in some parts of the world. For all the criticism of the U.S. overseas, it remains the single most desirable place to immigrate, either legally or illegally.

Though the likelihood of winning the lottery is small, millions try every year because it remains the most realistic chance.

Citizens of 19 countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years aren’t allowed to participate: 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. Persons born in Northern Ireland, the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau as well as Taiwan are eligible.

The lottery has been conducted entirely electronically for the past 15 years, and the department said this year is the first time it has encountered a problem. It blamed a data coding error in a new computer program for the mistake.

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A Federal Computer Error Forces U.S. Officials to Scrap the Results of the Visa Lottery

A Federal Computer Error Forces U.S. Officials to Scrap the Results of the Visa Lottery – Fox News Latino

 

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/05/13/federal-error-forces-officials-scrap-results-visa-lottery/

 

A federal computer programming error has prompted the U.S. State Department to void the results of the visa lottery.

That means major disappointment for tens of thousands of would-be immigrants from around the world who were notified this year that they had won a chance to come and live legally in the United States.

Nearly 15 million people had entered the 2012 lottery hoping to win one of 50,000 U.S. immigrant visas available under a wild-card program for people who otherwise would have little hope of getting a coveted U.S. visa.

Applicants for the random drawing do not have to have the usual family or employer sponsor.

The lottery selects 90,000 winners, a total that is then winnowed down through attrition, interviews and strict educational and occupational criteria.

The software glitch caused what is supposed to be a random drawing to select 90 percent of winners from entries submitted on only the first two days of the 30-day registration period that ended Nov. 3, the department said on Friday.

“These results are not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of the entrants as required by U.S. law,” said David Donahue, the deputy assistant secretary of state whose office oversees the lottery. “We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused.”

The problem stemmed from an in-house programming error that has now been fixed, he said. A new lottery will be held from the existing pool of entries with winners announced in mid-July. Applicants do not need to re-enter to be eligible to win the do-over and no new entries will be accepted, he said.

Donahue recorded an online video to explain the situation and the State Department has updated its visa diversity lottery webpage to inform entrants that the previous results had been discarded.

The diversity visa lottery was established by Congress in 1994 to increase the number of immigrants coming to the United States from the developing world and countries with traditionally low rates of immigration to the U.S. Citizens of most countries are eligible, however, with those from only 19 countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years not allowed to participate.

The ineligible countries are Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador,El SalvadorGuatemalaHaiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea and Vietnam. Persons born in the Northern Ireland, the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau as well as Taiwan are eligible.

The lottery has been conducted entirely electronically for the past 15 years and the department said this year is the first time it has encountered a problem. It blamed a data coding error in a new computer program for the mistake.

Between Oct. 5 and Nov. 3, 2011, 14.7 million entries were received. But the glitch caused the overwhelming majority of the winning entries to be chosen from those submitted on Oct. 5 and 6, the department said.

The now-invalidated results became available online on May 1 and about 1.9 million people checked to see if they had won before the problem was uncovered on May 5.

Of those who looked up their status, about 22,000 were informed erroneously that they had been selected to move to the next step in the process, the department said.

Those told they had won were not necessarily in or en route to the United States unless they were here or arriving on another type of visa, officials said. Winning the lottery means the entrant is eligible to go the next step in the process, which can take months to complete.

 

 

 

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