Programming Error Invalidates U.S. Green Card Lottery Results

The U.S. State Department just announced that it has invalidated the results of this year’s Green Card lottery (officially the 2012 Diversity Lottery), which gives a set number of randomly drawn winners a permanent residency card to live and work in the United States. The mistake is especially embarrassing given that the State Department had already informed this year’s winners. Now, however, this notice has been rescinded and is no longer valid.

According to the State Department’s statement, the results were invalidated because “a computer programming error resulted in a selection that was not truly random. Since the computer programming error caused an outcome that was not random, the outcome did not meet the requirements of the law, and would have been unfair to many DV entrants.” The State Department does not think that foul play was the reason for this error.

The State Department will repeat this year’s lottery (hopefully with the help of an algorithm that is more random) and will post the new results around July 15, 2011. No new entries will be accepted for this new lottery and all the previous entries will be eligible for the new drawing.

It’s hard to overstate the impact this error will have on the individuals who thought they were getting Green Cards and were likely already making preparations to immigrate into the U.S. Every year, millions of people enter into the Diversity Lottery and given that only 50,000 Green Cards are made available every year, the chance of winning is slim (there are also quotas that make it harder for prospective immigrants from some countries to win).