An outage in the computer system handling the process of U.S. visas globally has left many international travelers in limbo. 

The State Department said in a statement that the outage didn’t appear to be cybersecurity-related but that it will be at least until next week before the system is back online, even with more than 100 public and private computer experts working “around the clock” on the issue.  

The issue stems from a hardware failure at a U.S. facility that is preventing embassies and consulates around the world from cross-checking applicants’ photos and biometric data, the statement said.  

“We cannot bypass the legal requirements to screen visa applicants before we issue visas for travel. Each visa decision is a national security decision, and we take our obligation to protect the United States seriously,” the statement reads. U.S. passports are still being issued with some processing delays.  

U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world process more than 50,000 visa applications per day, but it’s unclear how many people will see thier trips disrupted, the statement said. Many facilities were able to continue with visa interviews, a key part of the process for travelers access to the U.S. in some countries. Also, many travelers obtain visas well in advance of their trips. Still, attorneys were concerned.  

“This will have a tremendous economic effect on global business and the movement of business personnel, as well as private summer vacation plans, as foreign nationals requiring a visa for international travel may face lengthy delays — in admissibility to the U.S., cancelled flights and other related damages,” said Teri Simmons, who leads the immigration practice at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Atlanta. “We hope that the systems will be restored soon, but even if they are, all should expect extraordinary processing delays at posts overseas.” 

In Atlanta, an education consultant told Global Atlanta she wasn’t able to bring in a few potential Chinese investors. Some reports pointed to American farmers’ inability bring in temporary workers from Latin America for timely harvests, which could lead to higher prices for peaches and cherries.  

See the full statement from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs here.  

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...