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Update on State Department’s Visa System

June 29, 2015

The State Department has issued an alert that, as of June 26th, all visa-issuing embassies and consulates are back online. Consular staff worked over the weekend to clear backlogs which they anticipate will be done by early this week.

On June 26, 2015, DOS updated their alert with the following language:

  • All visa-issuing embassies and consulates are now back online. We are scheduling visa interviews and issuing nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
  • We issued more than 300,000 nonimmigrant visas this week. Consular staff will work this weekend, to clear our backlog, which we anticipate will be gone by early next week.
  • We are still experiencing problems with some online immigrant visa application forms. We are working around the clock to correct the issue.
  • We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas, as well as their families and U.S.
  • businesses that have been affected.
  • We continue to post updates to our website, travel.state.gov.

June 19, 2015

Due to a worldwide outage in the system U.S. consulates use to issue immigrant and non-immigrant visas, all U.S. consulates overseas have suspended issuance of all such visas!

The Department of State does not currently know what the problem is or when it will be fixed.  Some consulates might delay rescheduling of visa appointments for an indeterminate time.  If you need a U.S. visa to reenter the United States, I recommend that you not leave the country until this issue is resolved, unless you are able to remain outside the country for an extended period of time.  If your status is expiring and you must leave, but need a U.S. visa to return, then make a visa appointment as soon as possible, before the anticipated backlogs in visa appointments increase.  If you currently have a visa appointment, you should keep that appointment if you need to leave the U.S., but should be prepared to remain outside the U.S. until this problem has been resolved.

The US government’s visa system, crippled by a technical glitch, will not be back up and running until at least next week, forcing thousands of business travelers and others to postpone or cancel travel plans.  “This is a global issue and we’re working around the clock to fix it,” said John Kirby, a State department spokesman. No evidence indicated that the problem was related to cyber security. But Mr Kirby said he did not expect the system to be back “online before next week. I can’t give you any more specific detail with respect to timing on that.” 

The glitch is having an effect on people who have already submitted their documents because their passports have become locked up in the system.  Documents are normally returned within four to five working days. But after the system went down applicants who needed their passports for other foreign travel have struggled to retrieve their documents.

 A spokeswoman for the US embassy in London confirmed that they were being “overwhelmed” with requests from applicants for their passports to be returned.  “It is most definitely an issue and regrettable,” she said, adding that the consular section was dealing with “over 500 email requests a day” from applicants requesting that their documents be returned.  She urged anyone affected, who needed their passports for other travel, to fill out the visa contact form on their respective embassy’s website.  She said that if people ticked the box entitled “my inquiry concerns non-immigrant visas and is not covered by your website” and also stated the type of visa they had applied for “we will do our best to reply”. But she warned that “we are trying to manage expectations and get back to people when we can, but in some cases it just isn’t possible”.  She also cautioned that anyone who had their passport returned would “likely have to start any visa application process over again”.

US diplomatic missions handle an average of 50,000 visa applications a day. Overseas and domestic passports were still being issued normally.  “Domestic passport operations are functioning, with some intermittent processing delays. While some of these issues have affected same-day service at our passport agencies, we continue to issue passports to US citizens with urgent overseas travel needs,” the department said.

This is the second technical glitch to hit the US visa system since last year, when a data-processing system failed last July, stranding thousands of business people, foreign workers and athletes who had planned travel to the US.  The State department said it was prioritising visa applications for temporary agricultural workers and in urgent humanitarian cases, and would clear the backlog of pending visa cases as soon as possible.  “We regret the inconvenience to travellers and recognise that this is causing hardship to those waiting for visas, and in some cases, their family members or employers in the US,” the department said.

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