For a few joyful days, more than 20,000 people around the world thought they had beaten the odds and won a lottery that gave them a chance to go and live legally in the United States.
On Friday, the State Department sent its regrets. Computer problems had negated the lottery's results, it said,
"Any results previously posted and available through the website are considered invalid," the department said in a statement. "We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused."
The drawing, which the State Department calls the Diversity Visa Lottery, is an annual free-for-all established by Congress in 1994 to increase the number of immigrants from the developing world and from countries with traditionally low rates of emigration to the United States. Applicants do not have to have the usual family or employer sponsor.
The lottery selects 90,000 names from a pool of online entrants. That number is winnowed to 50,000 winners through attrition, interviews and educational and occupational rules.
For visas to be awarded in 2012, applicants had to submit entries between Oct. 5 and Nov. 3, 2010. The glitch meant that among 14.7 million entries, about 90 percent of the people picked to move on to the next step came from applications submitted the first two days, according to