UPDATE -- The State Department has announced that as of June 26, all visa issuing posts are back online and are able to issue visas normally. The department expect to have the existing backlog of pending visa cases cleared before the July 4 Independence Day holiday.
Following up on our earlier post regarding the ongoing “visa freeze” caused by technical problems with the Department of State’s Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), we attended a meeting today with State Department officials who provided updated information.
As background, a hardware failure has prevented consular posts from receiving biometrics and other security clearances required for visa issuance since June 9, and posts worldwide are currently unable to issue visas for travel to the U.S. In today’s meeting, State Department officials stated that they hope to have the system at least partially operational at some point next week (June 22 – June 26).
Officials also confirmed that once the system is operating again, posts will prioritize applications as they work through the backlog. Priority will be given to emergency humanitarian cases, H-2A applications based on current agricultural needs, and F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors who have impending program start dates.
Department officials reiterated that those with a pending application whose passport is being held by the post may withdraw their application and request the return of their passport if they have a need to travel elsewhere than the U.S. However, individuals must be aware of the ramifications of this as it pertains to future visa applications, especially applications for an ESTA clearance to travel under the Visa Waiver Program.
After returning the passport to an applicant making such a request, the post will issue a “refusal” (denial) of the visa application. This “denial” must then be disclosed on future visa applications and on any request for an ESTA clearance under the Visa Waiver Program.
With regard to ESTA processing, officials stated that this disclosure of the “refusal” would result in the ESTA application being sent for review, but if the review determined that the sole basis for refusal was due to the visa outage, the ESTA clearance would be issued.
The Department of State will update the public on the outage through its website, travel.state.gov, and through the websites for the individual posts. Of course, we will also keep our readers informed through continued email alerts and blog posts.
As always, please contact us with any questions.
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