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US has begun to fix visa problems, big backlog to be processed

The US State Department said on Tuesday it has begun to fix a technical problem that had disrupted US visa issuance around the globe, but it will take time to work off a big backlog.

About 45,000 visas were issued on Monday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said, adding that the department typically issues around 50,000 per day. He declined to predict when the department would clear its backlog.
Kirby did not give the size of the backlog.

US visa issuance had all but ground to a halt following a hardware problem with the database that handles biometric data which the US government screens before giving visitors visas.

“The database responsible for handling biometric clearances has been rebuilt and … is being tested,” Kirby said, adding that 33 US embassies and consulates, representing 66 percent of normal capacity, are now online and issuing visas.

“I don’t want to be overly rosy here. We’ve got the fix in place. Things seem to be working,” he added. “There is a big backlog. It’s going to take a while to clear that.”

The United States had been able to issue relatively small numbers of visas since the problem began on June 9, including for humanitarian cases and for temporary or seasonal workers.

The problem originated because of a hardware failure in the system responsible for storing the biometric data, said a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

When switching to a backup system the department discovered that the data was damaged and unusable, requiring it to rebuild a complete data set and then to make sure it was available to the US diplomatic posts that issue visas, this official said.

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