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Department of State

Department of State Provides Update in Regards to the Technical Problems with the Consular Consolidated Database

The Department of State (“DOS”) provided an update in regards to the technological issues it is experiencing with its Consular Consolidated Database. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is continuing to work to remedy this issue. As of June 22nd, 22 consulates have been reconnected. This represents about half of the non-immigrant visa volume. The DOS will continue to reconnect Consulates as this technical problem is resolved. However, biometric data is still not available. The DOS is issuing visas for urgent and humanitarian travel. The DOS has not provided any further update in regards to when it expects the database to be fully operational again. At this time, we are suggesting that individuals delay making travel plans until these technical issues are solved.

Department of State Announces Technical Issues with Overseas Passport and Visa Systems

On June 12, 2015, the Department of State announced that it is experiencing technical problems with its Consular Consolidated Database (“CCD”). These difficulties are not related to the issues that were experienced last year with the CCD. The technical glitch is not specific to any country, visa category or citizenship document. The Department of State has reported that a hardware failure occurred on June 9th that stopped biometric clearance requests from moving from the Consulates to the CCD. In addition, the system that is used to perform national security checks is experiencing technical difficulties. Consequently, the Department of State is not able to print visas and other travel documents. Due to these delays, a backlog in visas has developed, which will cause further delays even once this system is fully operating again. The Department of State has not provided information about when these technical issues will be resolved. It has stated that it will attempt to assist non-immigrant visa applicants who have urgent humanitarian travel needs to obtain a visa. However, the Hammond Law Group suggests that individuals delay making travel plans until these technical issues are resolved.

Department of State Is Experiencing Technical Difficulties

The Department of State has reported that its offices are experiencing technical difficulties due to system maintenance. Offices including the U.S. Embassies and Consulates, the National Visa Center, and the Kentucky Consular Center are reporting delays in service, including problems in receiving and sending emails. Individuals who email the Department of State should be prepared that responses will take longer than normal. The Hammond Law Group will provide further updates as they are received.

Visa Stamping at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica

On October 31, 2014, the Embassy of the United States in Kingston, Jamaica issued a notification that placed extensive restrictions on third country nationals who hoped to attend an appointment in Kingston to receive a visa stamp. This notification can be found here. Specifically, the following individuals who do not hold long-term status in Jamaica may not apply for a visa stamp at the Consulate in Kingston:

  • Applicants who changed status with Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. and who are seeking a new visa in the new visa category.
  • Applicants who entered the U.S. in one visa category and are seeking to re-enter the U.S. in a different visa category.
  • Applicants who have been out of status in the U.S. having violated the terms of their visas or having overstayed the validity indicated on their I-94s.
  • Applicants who obtained their current visa in a country other than that of their legal residence.
  • Petition-based first time applicants.
  • Third country nationals who are not resident in Jamaica and who are applying for a B1/B2 visa (including B1/B2 renewals).

As can be seen, this list applies to a wide range of applicants. Due to these restrictions, the Hammond Law Group recommends that visa stamping applicants who are third country nationals avoid the U.S. Embassy in Kingston. If you are a third country national and believe that your visa stamping request in Kingston does not involve one of the categories outlined above, we suggest that you contact the Hammond Law Group to discuss whether attending a visa stamping appointment in Kingston is a feasible option.

Update Regarding the Department of State’s Consular Consolidated Database

The Department of State (“DOS”) has announced that it has made substantial progress in resolving the performance issues with the Consular Consolidated Database. This database crashed in late July, which caused the DOS to be unable to issue visas to applicants. Since this problem affected Consulates throughout the world, the DOS was experiencing a significant backlog. It appears that the Consular Consolidated Database is operational again. The DOS has issued visas to applicants who were part of the backlog throughout the world. Furthermore, the DOS stated that it is printing visas for all cases with very little delay. At this time, individuals who were delaying making travel plans due to concerns about whether a visa would be issued in a timely manner can begin to arrange for trips abroad.

Further Updates From the Department of State Regarding the Database Crash

The Department of State (“DOS”) has released additional information that discusses what caused the Consular Consolidated Database to crash and its impact at Consulates throughout the world. Since July 20th, the Consulates have printed nearly 250,000 nonimmigrant visas. Normally, the DOS would expect to issue about 480,000 nonimmigrant visas during this period of time. This means that the Consulates have only been able to print visas for about half of the expected applicants. Unfortunately, the DOS believes that it will take weeks before its Consulates are able to return to normal processing times for issuing visas. The DOS provided some further information, including:

  1. The Consular Consolidated Database, including backup systems, crashed as a result of a software upgrade issue.
  2. The DOS is prioritizing immigrant visas, adoption cases, and emergency nonimmigrant visas.
  3. There is no expected time frame when the DOS expects this problem to be resolved.

The Hammond Law Group urges individuals who have not made specific travel plans and who will require a new visas stamp in their passport to return to the U.S. to hold off on traveling until this problem is resolved.

Department of State Database Crashes

During the busy summer travel season, the Department of State’s Consular Consolidated Database has crashed. This database is responsible for supporting the Department of State’s efforts to verify information in passports and visa requests. The Department of State has reported that unspecified glitches in the database have resulted in “significant performance issues, including outages in the processing of applications for passports, visas, and reports of Americans born abroad.” The problem exists throughout the world and in all categories of applications. The issues caused by this glitch have resulted in a backlog of applications. One report stated that an unspecified country had close to 50,000 applicants who were experiencing delays. While the Department of State is working to rectify this problem, the Hammond Law Group suggests that individuals who have not made travel plans avoid going abroad for visa stamping interviews until this backlog has eased.

NFAP Data Should Draw Ire from the Obama Administration

Recently the NFAP released a report based upon data received from the Department of State that showed visa approvals for multi-national cos. from India had declined in 2011 by almost 30% while during the same time-frame, the approvals for non-Indian based cos. had risen by over 15%.  At a time when the U.S. economy needs job growth and a larger tax base and President Obama is regularly promoting the need for our immigration policies to encourage international commerce and entrepreneurs, it is most unfortunate that the US Consulates in India have chosen to ignore the directives of President Obama and instead apply policies that require Indian owned cos. to go above and beyond the requirements imposed under exisitng law and legal precedent and essentially meet “super-tests” to achieve approvals. One could charge racism and discrimination or the advancement of isolationism but, frankly, I’m of the opinion that the real issue is a culture that is pervasive  at the US Consulates and the USCIS Service Centers which permit officers to modify their roles from adjudicators into policy-makers and as a result, they have elevated their own policies and prejudices over that of the positions of President Obama, USCIS Director Mayorkas, and Sec. of State Clinton, and to anyone who cares about the rule of law, even more importantly, over the laws enacted by Congress and the case precedents established by Federal Courts. Unfortunately, the notion that government agencies should follow the law is a foreign concept today to the detriment of the US economy.

May Visa Bulletin released

The Department of State released the May visa bulletin and as promised, there was some forward movement in all categories including India EB2. Also included in the bulletin were predictions of future movement and an interesting (if you are an immigration attorney, an Indian national in the EB2 category or simply crazy about numbers) explanation on how the unused numbers from EB1 will trickle down to EB2, etc.

Good news for Indian EB2 !

The Department of State has advised AILA that due to a lack of demand for the EB1 category, there will be a trickle down effect that will positively impact the Indian EB2 category and move dates forward. They estimate that an additonal 12,000 visas will be available to the Indian EB2 category. This is great news as this category has not moved since Sept of 2010 and the prior prediction from the DOS was that no movement should be expected in FY 2011.  We expect to see this forward movement as early as the May Visa bulletin which will be released in mid April. This good news should not derail efforts for long-term legislative relief and reasonable wait times for all employment based categories.