Sunday, August 3, 2014

Global Delays In US Visa and Passport Processing

A computer glitch in a key U.S. Department of State (DOS) database is causing delays in the issuance of visas and passports at U.S. consulates around the world. From DOS: "Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our passport / visa system.

This issue is worldwide and is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category. We apologize to applicants who are experiencing delays or are unable to obtain a passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or visa at this time."

The Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) is still performing below its normal operational capacity.  However, to give you an idea of the progress we have made, since July 20, our embassies and consulates have printed close to 250,000 nonimmigrant visas globally.  Based on our average production figures, we would have anticipated issuing closer to 480,000 nonimmigrant visas in that time period, indicating we have been able to print documents for just over half of all approved travelers.

It will take some weeks before we are back to normal turnaround times on issued visas. We continue to prioritize immigrant visas, adoption cases, and emergency nonimmigrant visa cases.  We are printing visas for these cases with very few delays.

Nearly all passports are being issued within our customer service standards, despite the system problems.  We are issuing passports for emergency travel without delay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What caused the system performance issues?  Hardware, software, or both?  Details?
On July 20, to improve overall system performance and address previous intermittent performance issues, we updated software per industry recommendations.  Our database began experiencing significant performance issues shortly after this maintenance was performed.

A root cause has not been identified at this time.  Current efforts are focused on bringing the system back to normal operations.  Once that has been accomplished, resources will be applied to determine the root cause.

Q:  What steps did we take to mitigate the performance issues?
Since July 20, our team has worked to restore operations to full capacity.  On July 23, the CCD was brought back online with limited capacity.

The Department of State is working with Oracle and Microsoft to implement system changes aimed at optimizing performance and addressing ongoing performance issues.

We are increasing the number of processed cases as our systems allow.

Q:  Has CA experienced these types of outages in the past? 
CA has experienced minor outages in the past, but not of this magnitude.
  
Q:  Is the software to blame?  Contractors at fault?  Why was this allowed to happen? 
We have been working to improve our services through upgrades while maintaining existing operations worldwide.

 Q:  Why did those steps not work?  What’s the next step?
We have not determined why the problems occurred.  We are working with our contractor and the software vendor to address the problems.

We are bringing additional servers online to increase capacity and response time.
  
Q: Why wasn’t there a back-up server?
Back-up capability and redundancy are built into the system.  The upgrade affected our current processing capability, in part because it interfered with the smooth interoperability of redundant nodes.

Q: What steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again?
CA plans to upgrade the CCD to a newer version of the Oracle commercial database software by the end of the calendar year.  We are installing additional servers to stabilize the existing system until the new database is thoroughly tested and operational.

 Q:  What do I need to know if I'm a passport applicant? 
Almost all passports are currently being issued within our customer service standards, despite the system problems.  We are issuing passports for emergency travel.

Q: What do I need to know if I'm a visa applicant?
We are telling visa applicants to expect delays as we process pending cases.  We remain able to quickly process emergency cases to completion.

We are posting updates to the visa page of travel.state.gov, and our embassies and consulates overseas are communicating with visa applicants.

In addition to communicating through our websites, e-mail, and letters, we are also reaching out to applicants via Facebook and other social media sites, such as Weibo, to relay the latest information.

 Q:  How are embassy/consulates returning passports to applicants who need to travel but don’t have visas?
Some individuals would like to have their passports returned before their U.S. visa is printed, and we are working with our posts around the world to develop procedures to manage these requests.

Q:  How can I contact my embassy/consulate to find more information?
Each embassy and consulate will post contact information on its website for applicants with questions about the status of their cases.  Check the webpage of the embassy or consulate where you scheduled your interview for additional information.
  
Q:  Why hasn’t the Department been more forthcoming until now?
We have experienced CCD outages in the past, but they have never disrupted our ability to perform consular tasks to this extent.

We informed the public as soon as it was apparent the CCD would not quickly be restored to normal operating capacity, and have issued regular updates since then.

 Q:  How are cases being prioritized?  What about medical emergencies?
More than 50 percent of pending nonimmigrant visas cases are being printed, with the goal of prioritizing those pending the longest.

In addition, we are prioritizing immigrant visa and adoption cases, nonimmigrant medical emergencies, and humanitarian cases.

 Q:  What is the outlook for NIVs?  When do we estimate the backlog will be processed?
Current efforts are focused on restoring the system to normal operations, while continuing to adjudicate new applications.

We are committed to reducing the number of pending visa cases as quickly as possible. 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.

 Q:  Is the Department going to reimburse applicants who missed flights/canceled weddings/missed funerals?
We sincerely regret any delays, inconvenience, or expense that applicants have may have incurred due to the CCD performance issues.

We have always advised travelers NOT to make final travel plans until they have a visa in hand.  Even when the CCD is operating normally, there may be delays in visa approval or issuance.

 Q:  What impact will this have on SIVs?
SIV processing continues and remains a high priority.

Q: How is this impacting student visas?  They are scheduled to start the fall semester soon.
We understand the importance to international students and exchange visitors, their families, and their U.S. host institutions of timely visa issuance in order to facilitate travel and to ensure all students and exchange visitors may begin their programs on time.

We are committed to issuing visas to all qualified students and exchange visitors.  Student and exchange visitor visa applicants should submit their applications well in advance of expected travel dates.  We will make every effort to ensure timely visa issuance.

Q: What about situations where the student won’t arrive to school on time?
Students should 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.

 Q:  Will this have any impact on the Diversity Visa program in September?
Immigrant visa processing (including diversity visas) continues and remains a high priority.  The Department expects to have used all numbers for DV-2014 when the program year ends on September 30, 2014.

3 comments:

  1. Sign this petition - https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/allow-h1b-approved-cases-get-visa-stamped-us/yLY9LmH8

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can only imagine that existing developed countries and economies would get a majority share of this pie and the rest would lose out due to factors and phenomena such as 'brain drain', amongs others.

    Job in Canada

    ReplyDelete
  3. My mother has been a green card holder in this country for 53 years, and has renewed her card multiple times in the past without a problem. She filed her renewal Oct. 2013, check was cashed (they certainly know how to get paid, that system has not broken down) and yet here we are Nov. 2014 and nothing has been done. When you look up her case number, it still shows it in its initial stage. So USCIS must be really having multiple issues that are BIGGER then they would like to admit. She has contacted them many times and all they can offer is their apologies but no reasoning as to why it is taking this long.

    ReplyDelete

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