US Passport and Visa Issuance Computer Crash, Thousands Stranded Worldwide

A story that has gotten some play but not nearly enough is that the system for issuing US passports and visas has broken down.

Passport issue times have slowed down, and visa issuance has broken down as a result. Foreigners looking for permission to travel to (or return to) the U.S. are stuck waiting.

Problems began July 19, although it wasn’t the year’s first system crash.

The Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) at the State Bureau of Consular Affairs “is currently experiencing technical problems with our passport/visa system,”

…The issues, she said, have resulted in significant backlogs. Visas are approved, recorded and printed through the CCD. “Until the system comes back online, we are unable to print visas.

While H1B status can be approved for 3 years (renewal once), the length of time that any given country’s citizen is given on their visa depends on where they’re from. Citizens of most of the world get their Visas for 3 years. That’s true for places like Pakistan. Citizens of Mexico only get visas one year at a time. So a colleague is down in Mexico renewing his visa (or else he wouldn’t be able to travel outside the country and return, as he does tend to need to do). And he’s stuck there. He writes,

I am still in Mexico. The US Bureau of Consular Affairs has been dealing with technical issues that prevents US Consulates to print Visas. That includes mine. There is nothing wrong with my petition/file. It is a worldwide system problem. If you want to be “amused”, look here:

A reader looking for advice on changing flights due to the issue writes,

I have some friends who are in Guangzhou, China now finalizing an adoption. They are working in getting the baby a US visa, but apparently the US consulate there is having technical issues and they have been delayed several days.

The State Department says they’re working on it.

As of July 27, the Department of State has made continued progress on restoring our system to full functionality. As we restore our ability to print visas, we are prioritizing immigrant cases, including adoptions visas. System engineers are performing maintenance to address the problems we encountered. As system performance improves, we will continue to process visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. We are committed to resolving the problem as soon as possible.

This is a very big deal, for obvious reasons, and so I will refrain from the obvious snark.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Can’t help but wonder about the second tier of problems resulting in these folks unexpectedly extending their stays. Our local news had a piece about a couple with the China adoption issue. Could they potentially be there on one of those 72-hr visas? Now what?

  2. @colleen highly unlikely someone doing an adoption would transit without visa. But certainly lots of stay issues that could back up from something like this entirely apart from costs.

  3. Whats the big deal about getting into the US without a Visa? Just come through Mexico like everyone else. No documentation required.

  4. If they are having to unexpected stay in China longer than originally expected, you can apply to extend your visa at a Entry Exit Bureau in the larger cities in China (like Guangzhou), or at a PSB office in smaller cities. They’re likely on either 6 month or 1 year visas, so likely no stay issues. Also, Gary, your statement about visa validity for Mexican citizens is misleading. The most common visa class for Mexican citizens (the border crossing card) is normally good for 10 years, and the H1B, like many other things, is affected by reciprocity, so if México gave US citizens longer term work visas, we’d do the same for Mexican citizens.

  5. Lemme guess – CGI Federal, the main Web site developer for HealthCare.gov, strikes again? At least the Department of State isn’t reporting all their email disappeared like Lois Lerner at the IRS.

  6. I am the guy Gary quoted above regarding the family in Guangzhou. I just found out that the visa for their adopted son has come through. I suppose this issue is starting to be resolved.

  7. This is all purposely caused by the Obama Administration. In order to redistribute wealth to his “folk:, he disrupts methods and tries by any means possible from those who earned the right to be free. Under Obama, his wife, and his goon squad of regulators and Congressional protectors (like Harry Reid), it has become The United States of Kenya—-only in Kenya (and countries like Sudan) are their troubles with passports. Now add the USA?

    For example, Obama’s goon squad raised the security fee, but not for security, but to pay down the national deficit. How criminal is that? A Mugabe would do something like that, rather than use funds for security to pay for and better security.

    Look at the IRS scandal and the US Media trying to hide it. But, like Nixon, they just found those [Lois Lerner] tapes. Obama is trying to put everyone on The Metro and public transportation. Bush wanted everyone to own their own home.

    ED

  8. Mexican citizens can get H1Bs for three years like any other citizens.

    There is a special visa status for North Americans (Canadians and Mexicans) called TN. This particular visa can be issued in 1 or 3 year increments.

  9. @Jonathan – Mexican citizens get H1B status for 3 years but their visa to enter the US only lasts a year and must be renewed each year while in H1B status.

    TN status only applies to certain professions, and has much more cumbersome procedures for Mexican citizens than it does for Canadians.

  10. Stuck in Sweden with my passport at the US embassy, suppose to start my MBA in 2 days. Still don’t know what date to re-book my flight to. This… is… stressful.

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