Glitch dashes green card hopes
WASHINGTON – A computer glitch was being blamed for dashing the hopes of Barbadian and other foreign nationals worldwide who thought they had won the chance to become permanent residents of the United States.
The US Department of State said it had been forced to cancel the visa lottery results informing more than 22 000 foreigners that a “computer programming problem” was the reason.
“The results were not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of entrants, as required by law,” the Department said in a statement, adding that a new lottery drawing will be made on July 15.
“The entire pool of applicants would have been unfairly disadvantaged,” said Rosemary Macray, a spokeswoman for the department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
“The error was found and corrected, and we are going forward with a new drawing that will be in full compliance with the law,” she added.
But the aspiring immigrants filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court here, seeking to force the State Department to return to the first lottery results and restore their chance at the visas.
State Department officials hoped the terse message they posted about the computer glitch would bring a quiet end to the botched lottery selection.
But in the age of social media, the foreigners who were spurned found one another on the Internet and banded together.
They placed Skype calls to lawmakers in the US Congress and flooded American news media Web sites with pleas for help.
Under a separate link, more than 18 000 of them joined a registry with their contact information. They even overwhelmed the comments on the State Department’s Facebook page.
Following a letter of complaint from their lawyer, Kenneth White, the State Department’s inspector general said he would examine the failed lottery.
The State Department runs an annual Diversity Visa Lottery to offer permanent resident visas, known as green cards, to foreigners from countries that have sent few immigrants to the United States.
Because the American immigration system is based on family ties, people from countries with more immigrants already here have a better chance at gaining green cards, for which there is an annual numerical limit.
The lottery randomly selects a pool of 100 000 applicants to proceed to the next step in the process, with 55 000 visas granted each year.
State Department officials said that about 19 million people from across the globe submitted electronic applications during the official 30-day period last year. (CMC)