New York There have been less than half the usual number of entries for the green card lottery this year, and immigrants' advocates blame a new rule requiring hopefuls to apply by computer.
As the Dec. 30 deadline nears, the government has received 5 million applications, compared with as many as 13 million in previous years, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Government officials say the new computer-only policy has prevented fraud and duplicate applications, resulting in the lower number of entries.
But advocates argue that potential applicants do not have access to the computers, scanners and Internet connections needed to enter. They say some are afraid of having their identities in a computer database, especially if they are living in the United States illegally.
"The information is not being collected to look for people to deport," Stuart Patt, a State Department spokesman, told the Times. "It's not being done as a tool for enforcement, it's being done for administrative improvement."
The newspaper said that when pressed, Patt added: "Would we make that information available if Homeland Security would make the request? I'm not saying we would deny it."
Only people from countries that have sent relatively few numbers of immigrants in the past five years can apply for the lottery, which gives invitations to apply for a visa to about 110,000 winners. About half are deemed unqualified or do not complete the process in time.