United States State Department Crippled By Computer Failure and Unable To Issue Visas

A computer hardware that remains unresolved has resulted in the United States not being able to issue visas to travelers around the world for two weeks, the State Department officials said on Monday.

Everyday, the country gets an average of 50,000 visa applications from all around the world. A huge quantity of these applications are stacking up while the department is trying to solve the hardware issue connected to biometric data. The computer failure has stopped officials from processing and sending fingerprints and photographs for security checks.

“We are working around the clock to fix it,” John Kirby, a department spokesman, said Monday. “More than 100 computer experts from both the private and public sectors across the United States are working on this.”

Mr. Kirby also added that the system is not likely to come back online before next week. Meanwhile, the department issued 1,500 visas regarded as important cases for humanitarian or medical reasons. In addition, the department also issued 1,250 visas to temporary farm workers from Mexico whose biometric data had been recorded before the system went off.

According to the officials, the computer failure did not seem like it was the outcome of a malicious act, nor it looked like the same software issue that had led to a virtual visa shutdown last year.

In a notice posted on its website, the department said that many consulates and embassies were forced to schedule visa appointments again last week. The statement said that the people who have applied well before they had planned to travel will receive their visas in time for their trip.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ashley Garrigus said that the backup system that they had in place had also failed.

“While switching to the backup system, we discovered that the data was damaged and unusable,” she wrote in an email. “We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers and recognize the hardship to those waiting for visas, and in some cases, their family members or employers in the United States.”

Among all those who were affected are people traveling for work, vacations and family visits. King Sunny Adé, the Nigerian musician was forced to cancel a United States tour due to the computer failure, said Par Neiburger, the artistic director of the World Music Institute, who was making arrangements for his concert in New York.

According to him, 700 tickets would have to be refunded. “It’s very hard to believe and very hard to explain to patrons, because they have the same reaction I have,” he said. “Why on earth can’t they fix this?”

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