An unspecified glitch in a global database used by the US government to issue passports and travel visas has left countless people around the world unable to travel for the last few days, according to State Department officials.
The database, known as the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), is one of the largest Oracle-based data warehouses in the world, holding more than 100 million records of visa cases and 75 million photographs, with links to other federal agency security databases, including the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). It is also the gateway to the Department of State Facial Recognition system and the NameCheck system.
The database was created to provide Consular Affairs a near real-time aggregate of the consular transaction activity collected domestically and at consular post databases worldwide by providing for a set of centralized visa and American citizen services to support U.S. consular posts and back office functions worldwide.
The CCD, which is used to print and approve U.S. visas and passports worldwide, reportedly crashed following scheduled maintenance earlier this week and was out of operation for as much as a few days. Although service has been restored (only in a “limited capacity,”) it continues to have significant problems, including outages, since July 19, 2014
In a press briefing on July 24, 2014, Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, said “The Bureau of Consular Affairs has been experiencing technical problems with our passport and visa system. The issue is worldwide, not specific to any particular country.” She went on to confirm that the issue was “… a technical issue, and again, we are working to correct it and should be fully operational again soon. We’re operating at a little bit of limited capacity right now, though, so we’re trying not to overload the system.”
The downtime and ongoing limited use has resulted in a growing backlog of visa and passport processing in the U.S. and at consular posts abroad. It is not clear just how many people have been impacted or left stranded waiting for their U.S. travel documents, but it is estimated that more than 50,000 applicants have been affected.
Harf could not say how long it would take to clear the visa backlog or when the database would be restored to fully operational status. “It’s going to take a little while, so we ask people to be patient,” she said.
Since the CCD is used to approve record and print visas and other documents, perform U.S. passport verifications, and to ensure that national security checks are conducted on applicants, these functions are currently compromised by the CCD crash and current limited operations. As such travelers seeking a U.S. visa, passport or other travel document should expect delays.