WASHINGTON More than 22,000 people were erroneously told they were eligible for a special U.S. visa program because of a computer error in an annual lottery and the drawing must be redone, a U.S. official said on Friday.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States regretted any inconvenience or disappointment caused by the mistake and that the results of the new drawing were expected to be available around July 15.
Under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, the U.S. government makes available some 50,000 visas each year drawn from a random selection to people who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
The official said that because of a computer programing error, 90 percent of the winners were selected from the first two days of applications rather than from the entire batch of applications over the 30-day registration period.
Some 19.6 million people had applied for the visas, which give them the opportunity to immigrate without having a family member or an employer sponsor them -- the typical route to a U.S. "green card" denoting permanent residency.
The U.S. government developed the malfunctioning computer program, the official said. It has been fixed and no one will be disciplined for the error, said a second official.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu)