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US Apologizes for Visa Lottery Error

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The State Department is apologizing for a computer error that led thousands of people to believe they had been selected as finalists in a U.S. immigrant visa lottery.  The selection process, involving nearly 15 million visa applicants, will be re-run.

The State Department is making a rare public apology for an embarrassing computer error that has prompted it to re-do its 2012 diversity immigrant visa lottery.

The diversity visa lottery was established by the Congress in 1994 to increase the number of immigrants coming to the country from developing states and other countries with traditionally low rates of immigration to the United States.

Nearly 15 million people, representing about 20 million with family members included, registered late last year for the 2012 computerized lottery under which 50,000 visa winners were to be selected.

State Department officials say the error caused 90 percent of the people selected as visa finalists to have been drawn from applications received on the first two days of the month-long entry process that began last October.

When the error was discovered in recent days, officials decided that the selection was neither random nor fair and would have to be done again.

But they estimate that in the meantime more than 20,000 applicants had been informed erroneously that they had been chosen to move ahead in the process.

In a message posted Friday on the State Department's visa website, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Donahue explained and apologized.

"The computer error that caused this unfair, non-random result has since been corrected," said Donahue.  "We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused.  Because this problem unfairly disadvantaged many diversity visa lottery entrants, we will conduct a new random selection."

Donahue said the new selection will be from the original entries, so would-be immigrants will not have to re-apply.

The results of the new selection process are to be posted on the department's visa website by mid-July.

A total of 90,000 applications from the 15 million entrees will be selected, and lottery finalists will then submit more forms on their qualifications.

Ultimately, 50,000 visas will be granted, with other selectees either choosing not to proceed with the process or being screened out for not meeting education, occupation or other requirements.

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