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Bug on America's Green Card Lottery

10 June, 2011 09:25  Erin Erin

Recently, one of the most coveted lottery winners were announced. The prize? Visas to the United States.

This announcement happens once a year, but this year was a bit different. A computer glitch allowed 22,000 people to be misinformed that they had won one of the valuable visas. The State Department is now in the awkward position of notifying these "winners" that they will not be welcome in the States.

To understand this situation, you first must understand the complicated Green Card System.

Green Card System

GreenCard © Marcus Kretschmar - FotoliaA United States Permanent Resident Card is an identification card attesting that a person has been officially granted immigration benefits, which include permission to reside and be employed in the USA. It is better known as a green card because of it's easily identifiable color. Green cards are issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    People can immigrate to the US:
  • through a family member
  • through employment
  • through investment
  • through Refugee or Asylum status
  • through "The Registry" provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • when approved by the Director of Central Intelligence
  • OR through the Diversity Lottery

Diversity Lottery

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a congressionally-mandated lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. The Act makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

How To Apply for a Diversity Visa

Applications are made through the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Applicants must determine if a visa is immediately available by checking the DOS Visa Bulletin. If a visa is available, applicants file Form I-485 (instructions available in a variety of languages). Registration is available online, and is generally open from October through December of each year.

    Supporting Evidence needed for Form I-485:
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Form G-325A, Biographic Information, if you are between 14 and 79 years of age
  • Copy of government-issued photo identification
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable)
  • Copy of passport page with admission (entry) stamp (if applicable)
  • Form I-94, Arrival/ Departure Record (if applicable)
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • Applicable fees
  • Certified copies of court records (if you have ever been arrested)
  • Copy of the principal applicants selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS
  • Copy of the receipt for the processing fee of the diversity visa lottery from DOS
  • Principal applicants must also submit evidence of a high school diploma or its equivalent, or evidence of 2 years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least 2 years of training or experience in the past 5 years.

Chances of Winning

Young patriotic woman with an American flag , lost in thought© Yuri Arcurs - FotoliaThe chance of winning a visa is, unfortunately, extremely limited. There are usually over 10 million applicants for the 50,000 spots. No single country can receive more than 7 percent of the total number of visas, which is 3,500.

In order to allow for those who do not pursue immigrant visas, and for the applicants who do not qualify, more "winners" are selected in the lottery than there are visas available. Thus, being selected from the lottery does not guarantee an immigrant visa. After winning, you must be able to submit all the necessary documentation for the visa.

2011 Programming Error

On May 1, 2011 the "winners" of the 2012 Diversity lottery were announced online. On Friday, May 13 the results were rescinded as they were compromised by a computer glitch. Over 22,000 applicants had erroneously been told that they had been selected for further processing. It appears that the error had been related to the selection in that 90 percent of winners selected came from those who had submitted their applications during the first two days of the registration period.

Results are being re-calculated and entrants have been told they will be able to check the new results on or about July 15, 2011. This has caused massive upheaval. Many "losers" had lost or destroyed their confirmation numbers after checking the erred results so the U.S. government sent e-mails to all applicants with their confirmation numbers on Thursday, May 19, 2011. "Winners" are also up in arms as many of them have already begin to prepare for their move, and are now left in an awkward position to see if they will be lucky enough to win again.

Daniel Tonin is a Dutch native that has been living in New Zealand. This was his first application, and he was ecstatic when he received confirmation that he had won a position. Tonin said, "I told everybody. I told my family, my friends. And I told the people in New Zealand that I'd been working with". He has already quit his job and bought a plane ticket to America.

People are rightfully outraged by this egregious error. There have been petitions popping up on and Facebook to reinstate the 22,000 selectees. However, it is no longer up to the people. It is, once again, up to chance.





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