MERRIFIELD, Va. — Postal officials said Monday that 2 million applications for green cards have been processed so far for a lottery to choose 40,000 new legal residents of the United States.
"We have, approximately, another 4 million to 5 million waiting in the wings to either be processed or verified," said Postal Service spokesman Robert Faraq at the Merrifield General Collection facility, where the applications are being processed.
Many immigrants tried to improve their chances by delivering more than 1,000 petitions each over the weekend.
The State Department is accepting the first 40,000 valid applications for immigration visas received by the department after 12:01 a.m. Monday. The applications could have been submitted to the Merrifield Post Office as early as 7 p.m. Saturday.
The visa lottery--the nation's first permanent immigration program based on luck--was established by Congress with the intent of "diversifying" the immigrant population, which has been dominated by people from Asia and Latin America. It was open to people from 34 countries, most of them in Europe. Perhaps 15 million applications are expected by the time the process ends Oct. 19.
The spokesman said the processing went fairly smoothly, but some applicants were uncertain about when they should have mailed their documents.
Anh Wah of Myanmar, formerly Burma, said she misunderstood when she was told applications were being taken at midnight Monday, and thought that meant she could not apply until Monday evening.
"I am so upset. I misunderstood. Now I can only pray that my mistake will not be fatal," she said. "I have been here for several years and desire nothing more than to be an American."
Faraq said officials did as much as they could to advise about the rules.
The spokesman said uncertainty about the timing caused large numbers of people to congregate unnecessarily near the postal facility for more than a week.