After a major hardware failure on June 9th that created significant delays in processing and issuing visas, the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) for U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide is nearly back online. As of June 24th, 50 posts, representing nearly three quarters of normal capacity, are now online and issuing visas. Prior to this week, all of the U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide were temporarily unable to issue visas and other travel documents. The system is slowly being restored and the Bureau of Consular Affairs hopes to have full system capability by the end of the week, but the damage on processing time frames has already been done. With an average of 50,000 applications handled daily worldwide, even a few days down has a significant ripple effect.
In the last two days the State Department's processing prioritization has shifted from a focus on urgent humanitarian cases and temporary agricultural workers, back toward normal procedures. Still, all visa applicants who have submitted online applications or were interviewed for visas on or after June 9th may experience delays or be required to reschedule visa appointments.
The hardware failure halted the flow of biometric clearance requests from posts to the CCD, a critical step in the process of performing national security checks prior to visa issuance and passport verifications. With this key component down, visas could not be issued. Even with a majority of the posts back up and running, the State Department noted a backlog of visas waiting to be processed because they cannot bypass the legal requirements necessary to screen visa applicants and complete the necessary security checks.
For business travelers in H, L, and E visa status who will need to obtain a new visa stamp following international travel, these potential delays should be taken into consideration and arrangements made accordingly. What may typically take only a few business days could now take between 1-2 weeks, as the Embassies and Consulates work through the backlog. Some locations, including several in India, have cancelled all visa interviews from June 22-26 and others like London are reporting 29 calendar days for visa appointment wait time and 14 work days for processing.
Polsinelli’s immigration practice will monitor the situation and provide updates. If you have questions or concerns about how this backlog may affect your business, travel or personal concerns, please contact the author or your Polsinelli attorney.