U.S. visa system slowly coming back into service

The U.S. visa system is recovering slowly, although State Department officials are unable to say exactly what went wrong.

The system for visas for foreigners to enter the United States collapsed June 8, and workers in local embassies were unable to print visas on the passports of foreigners. They also were not able to conduct visa interviews for those who submitted their applications after June 9.

State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday that the Bureau of Consular Affairs reported that the database responsible for handling biometric clearances has been rebuilt and is being tested.

However, he struggled to explain what went wrong. The best explanation that reporters got at the daily State Department briefing was that there was some hardware problem.

He said that 33 embassies and consulates representing 66 percent of State Department’s  normal capacity are now online and issuing visas and the department expects to restore full processing worldwide. The department has issued more than 45,000 visas

Monday and nearly 15,000 visas in Beijing alone, he said.

The 33 embassies do not include the one in Costa Rica.

The State Department says it usually handles 50,000 applications worldwide every day, so the backlog is substantial.

The agency said that issuing passports to U.S. citizens continued but there were some delays.

Kirby could not be specific with reporters on the hardware problem and he could not say how the department obtained the system.

The Obama administration has been plagued with computer problems.

There was no announcement of the problem by the U.S., Embassy here, although other embassies posted notices prominently on their Web sites. However, some readers have complained about the delays.

The State Department said that interviews for visas would be rescheduled, perhaps as soon as today. The glitch is likely to have an effect on U.S. tourism from abroad.

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