Posted: 1:23 am EDT
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On June 19, the Capital Press covering agriculture news in the western states reported that after a nine-day delay, the State Department began issuing visas again for Mexican farmworkers stranded at the U.S.-Mexican border wanting to head north for jobs. Visas were reportedly issued June 17 for a majority of some 200 people headed to Washington state to work in cherry harvest and other tree fruit work, according to Dan Fazio, director of the Washington Farm Labor Association in Olympia. The WAFLA posted its request for waiver of the visa requirement online here (pdf).
The update on the CCD glitch late last week said that 750 seasonal workers were issued visas as well as 1500 individuals with humanitarian cases. We asked CA about this since even us found this a tad confusing. The earlier announcement said that the hardware glitch made it impossible to issue visas at this time. We requested confirmation that the seasonal workers and humanitarian cases who were “issued visas” were actually issued visa waivers. And if that was not the case, how was it possible to issue visas to these applicants if the hardware issues had yet to be fixed?
The Bureau of Consular Affairs has posted a June 22 update on the Consular Consolidated Database problems. The update below does not specifically answer our questions but it indicates some development. Note that the 22 posts are not identified in the update (which appears frustrating for consular clients venting on Facebook). Visa applications affected are those submitted on or after June 9. With average global applications at 50,000 a day, this latest CCD glitch potentially affected about 450,000 visa applicants worldwide from June 9 – June 19. Whoa! Is that like $72 million in the last two weeks alone?
Here are the top 10 NIV issuance posts from FY2014. So these ten posts presumably have already been reconnected. We’re missing the next 12 posts that are also back online; hopefully, all 172 posts will be back online before too long.
Update below via travel.state.gov:
Visa Systems Issues
- The Bureau of Consular Affairs is in the process of resolving technical problems with our visa systems. Though some progress has been made, biometric data processing has not been fully restored.
- Our team continues to work on this 24/7 to restore the systems to full functionality.
- As of noon today, 22 posts have been reconnected, representing about half of the global nonimmigrant visa volume.
- We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored.
- Last week, nearly 1,250 temporary or seasonal workers who had been issued visas in the past were issued new visas in Mexico, and we have issued more than 3,000 visas globally for urgent and humanitarian travel.
- 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.
- We continue to post updates to our website, travel.state.gov.
Q: How long before you restore full system functionality?
- Public and private sector experts are making progress in correcting the visa problem, and we are striving to have the system fully reconnected sometime this week.
- As of noon today, 22 posts have been reconnected, representing about half of the global nonimmigrant visa volume. All our servers appear to be stable. There is a large backlog of cases to clear, but we have already made good progress. We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored.
- Overseas and domestic passports are being issued.
Q: How many travelers are affected by this outage?
- Most posts were able to handle visa interviews and some visa printing as usual through the end of last week. This week, many posts have rescheduled visa appointments.
- We handle an average of 50,000 applications daily worldwide. Many applicants do not have immediate travel plans, and will receive visas in time for planned trips. We are prioritizing urgent medical and other humanitarian cases.
Q: Once operational, how will cases be prioritized?
- We are already prioritizing urgent humanitarian cases and temporary agricultural workers. Once the systems are fully operational, we will work as quickly as possible to clear the backlog of pending visa cases.
- We apologize to travelers and recognize that this has caused hardship to some individuals waiting for visas.
Q: What about domestic passports?
- Domestic passport operations are functioning, with some processing delays. These technical problems have affected the intake of some mailed applications and same-day service at our passport agencies; however, we continue to issue routine and expedited passports to U.S. citizens for all overseas travel needs.
Q: What about overseas passports?
- Overseas passport applications are being processed. There have been delays in some cases, but posts overseas are able to issue emergency passports in urgent cases.
Q: What about the foreign agricultural workers (H2A visa holders?)
- We issued nearly 1,250 H-2 visas for agricultural and temporary workers last week. These are applicants whose biometric data was captured before the systems went down.
- Additionally over the weekend we worked with DHS/CBP to facilitate the entry of more than 250 H-2 workers to travel to their places of employment in the United States.
- CBP has agreed to give cases processed through the U.S. Department of State due consideration. However, no visa applicant, including agricultural workers, should report to the border without first having applied for a visa and having been processed through an embassy or consulate.
- Based on this weekend’s systems progress, we are currently rescheduling more than 1,500 H-2 visa applicants who were unable to be interviewed last week because of systems problems.