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State Department Begins Issuing Visas Again After Technology Glitch

After almost two weeks of delays, the U.S. State Department is reporting that the database responsible for handling biometric clearances has been rebuilt and that U.S. Consulates overseas have begun issuing visas again.

According to the State Department, 60,000 visas were issued on June 23, 2015, with 25,000 issued in China. Since June 9, the Department has issued more than 150,000 non-immigrant visas. The Department hopes to get all its facilities back online soon but must still work through a backlog of hundreds of thousands of applications.

Also as of June 23, 2015, 50 State Department overseas posts, representing more than three-quarters of normal capacity, were back online and issuing visas, a spokesman said. The Department is working to restore full biometric data processing and anticipates the system will be fully reconnected this week.

The announcement comes following State Department disclosures earlier this month that it was experiencing a hardware problem. The hardware issue wasn’t allowing the processing of security-related biometric data including fingerprints; in addition, it was holding up tourists, workers and family members looking to come to the United States. The Department notes it handles an average of 50,000 applications daily worldwide. 

The State Department previously announced that overseas consulates were unable to capture fingerprints for most immigrant and nonimmigrant visas approved after June 8, 2015 and that U.S. embassies and consulates were unable to process new applications submitted on or after June 9, 2015. The Department asked that individuals with visa interview appointments scheduled for June 14 to 20, 2015 reschedule their appointments if they submitted a DS-160 online application after June 9, 2015.  The failure didn’t affect domestic passport issuance.

Despite the delays, the State Department said it has been prioritizing urgent humanitarian cases and temporary agricultural workers. Nearly 1,700 temporary or seasonal workers have been issued new visas in Mexico based on their biometric data captured before the systems went down.  An additional 250 received Port of Entry waivers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

The Department said it is no longer asking CBP to provide port of entry waivers, as it is now able to distribute visas at border posts. Based on the progress with the systems, the Department is currently rescheduling more than 1,500 H-2 visa applicants, who were unable to be interviewed last week because of hardware difficulties.

Anyone with visa or passport questions, or how the recent backlog may affect them, should contact attorneys at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. 

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