The US Department of State (State Department or DOS) computer systems are not expected to be online again before next week after experiencing “technological systems issues” (a hardware failure) on June 9th. This information came from the State Department yesterday, June 17th, in an update following their initial announcement regarding the problem last Friday, June 12, 2015.
This has caused DOS’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to experience issues affecting overseas passport and visa systems. This systems issue is without restriction to particular countries, documents or visa types. Indeed, the effect seems to reach everyone from the nonimmigrant visa applicant, to the US citizen in need of a passport abroad.
Assistance from the State Department is available to nonimmigrant visa applicants who need to travel for urgent humanitarian reasons and DOS has indicated that it is always able to issue an emergency passport to a US citizen who is overseas and has an urgent need to travel.
Yet, one should be prepared that visa appointments and issuance of some visas will be delayed. A June 15th update from the State Department said that some visa applicants will “be contacted directly to reschedule their appointments”.
Affected parties will want to seek the guidance of immigration counsel to assess potential impacts on employment start dates and such questions as whether in-country processing is available and should be used for a change or extension of nonimmigrant status instead of processing abroad, among other possible issues.
DOS stated that the “failure is preventing the Department from processing and transmitting biometric data checks at visa-issuing embassies and consulates.” This affects the Department’s ability to meet its legal requirements to screen visa applicants before issuing visas for travel. The State Department offered its apologies to those affected and indicated that it has more than 100 private and public sector computer experts working “around the clock” to resolve the problems as quickly as possible while of course keeping in mind its responsibility to screen visa applicants as part of its critical border security responsibilities.
DOS stated that it will continue to provide regular updates on their website, travel.state.gov.
Catherine Wadhwani is a Partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.