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US faces legal action over Green Card computer glitch

Tens of thousands claim they were denied a chance to enter a Green Card lottery over a government computer glitch.

Image: Rainer Ebert via Flickr

THE UNITED STATES’ State Department is facing legal action taken by tens of thousands of people who were told they had won a lottery for a residency visa, only to have their ‘prize’ taken back.

The department had emailed 22,000 people last month to tell them they had been winners in the ‘diversity visa programme lottery’, a programme which allows them to bypass the usual lengthy procedures and give them a Green Card, which permits them to live in the country.

But The Wall Street Journal explains how the joy of the applicants was short-lived – because another email was sent two days later, rescinding the ‘award’.

The second email explained that a computer glitch meant the monthly lottery for April had not been conducted at random – as is required by Congress – and that a redraw would take place.

Now a group of the unlucky ‘winners’ have filed legal action against the State Department, which operates the lottery, on the basis that it had ‘broken a commitment’ to the applicants who had followed the legal rules as laid out when they applied.

“Real people have had their dreams unfairly shattered, and as a result, the public image of the United States as a fair and honourable country has been damaged around the world,” AFP quoted lawyer Kenneth White as offering.

The case names applicants from over 30 counties – including Ireland, the Irish Independent says. Other applicants came from other EU countries, eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

The lawsuit argues that the ‘winners’ were still chosen at random, as is legally required, though it acknowledges that the outcome was ‘not uniform’.

A Green Card visa allows its holder to take up permanent residency in the US, and puts applicants on the road to eventual US citizenship if they desire it.

Usually, a lottery takes place to grant Green Cards to 50,000 people every thirty days. It is thought that around 90 per cent of the winners from the April lottery had applied within the first two days. of the month.

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Gavan Reilly

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