DOS Makes 'Significant Progress' in Bringing Visa Processing Back Online and Clearing Backlogs
The Department of State (DOS) announced that it has made "significant progress" in bringing back online the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), used to print and approve visas and passports. The system had crashed in July 2014 and has continued to experience outages, resulting in processing backlogs. DOS said it has caught up with issuances for most of the worldwide backlog of nonimmigrant visa cases and is working to bring the CCD back to full operational capacity. "We continue to prioritize immigrant visas, adoption cases, and emergency nonimmigrant visa cases. We are printing visas for these cases and all cases with very few delays," a DOS statement noted. For information on specific cases, the agency advises checking with the embassy or consulate where the person will apply or has scheduled an interview.
DOS noted that the problems started shortly after a software update on July 20, 2014, although the agency has not been able to identify a "root cause." DOS said current efforts are focused on bringing the system back to normal operations. Once that has been accomplished, DOS will investigate the cause, and the agency also has been working with Oracle and Microsoft to implement system changes aimed at optimizing performance and addressing ongoing issues. DOS is also bringing additional servers online to increase capacity and response time. DOS noted that it has experienced minor outages in the past, but not of this magnitude.
The agency says visa applicants should "expect delays as we process pending cases," but that it remains able "to quickly process emergency cases to completion." DOS estimates that visa issuances may be delayed 10 to 14 days until the system is restored to full functionality and pending applications are printed.
DOS says it understands the importance to international students and exchange visitors, their families, and their U.S. host institutions of timely visa issuance to facilitate travel and to ensure that 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," DOS said. The agency added that in situations where a student won't be able to arrive at school on time, "[s]tudents 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)."
Regarding the diversity visa (DV) program, the agency noted that 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."
Some individuals would like to have their passports returned before their U.S. visas are printed. DOS said it is working with posts around the world to develop procedures to manage these requests. Each embassy and consulate will post contact information on its website for applicants with questions about the status of their cases.
DOS noted that those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program, and those whose previously issued visas remain valid, are not affected. DOS routinely advises visa applicants to make appointments well in advance of planned travel, and not to book travel until they have their printed visas in hand.
DOS said it plans to upgrade the CCD again to a newer version of the Oracle commercial database software by the end of 2014.
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