US visa system coming back online after major outage

Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for US visas after significant system problems

A United States visa is seen inside a passport, in this image taken on June 17, 2015.

A United States visa is seen inside a passport, in this image taken on June 17, 2015.

The U.S. Department of State is back in the business of issuing visas after a significant computer system failure halted work at consulates worldwide and inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of travelers.

The failure of an unidentified piece of hardware involved in biometric processing brought the entire Consular Consolidated Database system to a halt.

The system is responsible for processing and issuing an estimated 50,000 U.S. visas per day. Applications made after May 26 were affected.

"The database has been rebuilt and is being tested," said John Kirby, State Department spokesman, at a briefing on Tuesday.

About two thirds of visa issuance facilities are back online and have been issuing visas although only 45,000 were handed out on Monday. Of those, 15,000 were issued in Beijing, which is the busiest U.S. consulate anywhere in the world.

"Significant additional numbers will be issued as the backlog clears," he said. "Many posts are now rescheduling interviews, in many cases as early as the 24th."

The State Department hasn't provided details on what exactly went wrong and why it took so long to fix, beyond saying the database needed to be rebuilt. It has stated the failure was related to a hardware device and was not the result of a cyberattack.

The same database failed at about the same time last year, throwing summer travel plans in chaos for around 200,000 people.

On that occasional, a bug-ridden software patch from Oracle and Microsoft caused the problem.

Kirby cautioned that the system was still being tested and as such could still be taken offline again.

"So far, it's going well," he said.

Throughout the outage, which also affected issuance of U.S. passports at missions overseas, the U.S. has been handling a small number of visa cases. It has issued around 1,250 visas to temporary or seasonal workers from Mexico whose biometric details were already in the system and it has handed out around 3,000 visas related to urgent or humanitarian purposes.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government use of ITU.S. Department of Stategovernment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?