Computer Crash Hobbles U.S. Visa, Passport Operations in China (Aug. 10 Update)

errorDue to technical problems, the U.S. State Department is experiencing delays worldwide in visa and passport issuance. Visa applicants should be prepared for delays between their interviews and visa issuance. The glitch is with the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), which is used by the Department to ensure security checks are conducted prior to approving, recording, and printing visas and passports.

Aug. 10 Update

A nonimmigrant visa applicant whose U.S. travel is urgent because it either involves an “emergency” or impacts U.S. national interests, may request consideration for special travel permission to the United States if their visa issuance is delayed as a result CCD systems problems. “Emergencies” in this instance include urgent humanitarian travel and life-and-death situations. Upcoming business engagements and U.S. employment needs are “not typically considered humanitarian emergencies and likely will not be considered as such in most cases.”

If approved jointly by the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the consular post that accepted the visa application will release the traveler’s passport and will issue a transportation letter, which can be presented to the airlines to allow boarding of international U.S.-bound flights. Upon arrival to a U.S. port of entry and presentation of the transportation letter, CBP will waive the nonimmigrant visa requirement for admission.

Aug. 4 Update

The Department claims “significant progress” towards clearing the backlog of cases thru CCD.

The Department is posting contradictory information regarding the length of delays to expect. The Department’s website says both that the delay may be “up to one week” and, in another place, “10-14 days,” in addition to normal passport return times (3-5 work days in China).

Aug. 1 Update

At the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, sources tell our law firm that there is a backlog of 60,000 nonimmigrant visas waiting to be printed, as of July 31.

The State Department said yesterday that CCD “is still performing below its normal operational capacity…. It will take some weeks before we are back to normal turnaround times.” The root cause of the problem “has not been identified at this time,” but th Department asserts there is no evidence of hacking.

“Applicants should anticipate that visa issuance may be delayed 10-14 days until the system is restored to full functionality and pending applications are printed.”

The Department has prioritized the following types of visas, saying they are being completed “with very few delays”:

  • Immigrant visas
  • Adoption cases
  • Emergency nonimmigrant visas, including “medical” and “humanitarian” cases.

The Department also says that “nearly all passports are being issued within our customer service standards…. We are issuing passports for emergency travel without delay.”

For persons who are requesting that their passports returned immediately rather than waiting for visa issuance, the Department is “working” with Embassies and Consulates worldwide “to manage these requests.”

For students or exchange visitors waiting on F-1 or J-1 visas, the Department advises that they “contact their educational institution’s Designated School Official (F and M visas) or designated U.S. sponsor’s Responsible Officer (J visas) and discuss with them what arrangements they can provide for you to begin your program after the start date on your Form I-20 (F and M visas) or Form DS 2019 (J visas), should such a circumstance become necessary.”

The Department says that from July 20 through 28, the Department issued some 220,000 nonimmigrant visas globally, which is only about half of the visas for otherwise approved travelers.

July 24 Update

The technical issues arose July 19, says the Department. On July 23, the Department managed to bring CCD back online with limited capacity.  The Department is working on the problem together with its contractors, Oracle and Microsoft.

CCD is tied into other databases of various US federal agencies, such as the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), the Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), the Department of State Facial Recognition system, and the passport verification and NameCheck systems. Once a U.S. consular officer approves a visa, an application must be recorded and the visa cleared and printed through the database.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said, “We apologize to applicants and recognize this may cause hardship to applicants waiting on visas and passports. We are working to correct the issue as quickly as possible.”

DOS Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf
State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf

There have been ongoing problems with the CCD, an industry source familiar with the system told a reporter for FCW. The Department says that past outages have not been of this magnitude.

For More Information

Our law firm continues to work closely with clients impacted by the State Department’s delays, and we will post updates here as we learn more. The Department is also posting updates at on its U.S. Visas page.

 

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