State Department Posts Back Online after Tech Glitch Snarls Visas

Sorbis/Shutterstock.com

A hardware bug corrupted the agency’s database used for processing biometric information.

The State Department’s visa-issuing embassies and consulates are back online after a hardware bug corrupted the agency’s database used for processing biometric information and halted its ability to issue most types of visas.

The news came about three weeks after the problem was discovered. But some challenges associated with State’s online immigrant visa application forms remain, according to an agency statement.

“It was a hardware issue and we had to bring the two systems up and obviously, we had to bring a backup system [and] make sure that that was working and functioning properly,” Mark Toner, State Department deputy spokesman, said during a press briefing Monday. “That’s all been done now.”

The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is responsible for processing visas for non-U.S. citizens who want to travel to this country. During the nine-day stretch leading up to Monday’s announcement, the bureau successfully issued more than 410,000 non-immigrant visas, according to the State Department. This number equates to about 45,500 visas each day, or slightly less than average.

“Consular staff around the world worked throughout the weekend to diminish our backlog, the bulk of which has now been cleared,” Toner said.

Toner did not provide any specifics as to how the State Department would ensure such a problem does not occur in the future.

Migrating the State Department’s database to a better platform would involve bringing down the whole system worldwide, according to Michele Bond, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs. The bureau would be unable to issue visas or passports, or send emergency messages to Americans overseas.

Last summer, the State Department experienced a similar technical glitch. Although that severely limited the department's ability to issue visas for about a week, the whole system was never completely down.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs can now issue both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. It has also issued all those visas pending between June 9-19 for temporary workers.

The State Department is now scheduling visa interviews.  

(Image via Sorbis /Shutterstock.com)

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