US visa delays likely to continue, says embassy
Updated: 2014-07-29 07:40
By Zhao Xinying (China Daily)
People wait outside the United States embassy in Beijing on Monday for visa applications. A computer problem that occurred in the US visa application system on July 19 has significantly reduced the embassy's capacity for handling visa applications. Wang Jing / China Daily
Related reading: Glitch delays visas for US-bound students
Delays in issuing visas for the United States are likely to persist as the computer problems causing them have not yet been resolved, Nolan Barkhouse, spokesman for the US embassy in Beijing, said on Monday.
"Our records system has been experiencing significant performance problems, including outages, since July 19," he said.
Barkhouse said the visa service returned to online working last Wednesday, but it is still operating at a significantly reduced capacity.
"The delay will continue until the document backlog is cleared," he said.
The problems affecting the US State Department's central visa and passport database mean applicants around the world face delays.
There have been fears that Chinese students planning to attend college in the United States will not be able to obtain visas in time for the start of term. However, an overseas study adviser says they may not be affected.
"If the system can return to full operation by early August, then I think there's still time for Chinese students to apply for and get their visas," said Wang Jing, director of the US section at Chivast Education International, an overseas study consultancy in Beijing.
The consultancy helps Chinese students to apply for places at foreign universities and to obtain visas.
Wang said 2,300 Chinese students due to start their studies in the US in August are obtaining their visas through Chivast. By Monday, only 68 had not yet started the application process.
"The possible reason why these students apply so late may be that they receive admission from their universities late, or for other personal reasons," said Wang.
"At present, students still have a chance to make it for the start of the semester if the system returns to normal and the embassy processes the applications quickly."
Barkhouse said the computer problems were not the result of malicious actions or hacking, but the exact cause is not yet known.
"We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect the system to be fully operational again soon," he added.
"The service will continue to be disrupted until the system is fully functional," he said.
Families, adopted babies stranded by glitch
Between 40 and 50 families from the United States have been stranded in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, after the worldwide computer breakdown in the US State Department's visa and passport record-keeping database.
Li Jianru, an executive from Carolina Adoption Services, said the families are unable to leave the mainland, as they have been unable to obtain travel visas for their adopted babies because of the computer glitch.
CAS acts as an intermediary that helps foreigners to adopt Chinese babies.
"Most of the visas that were submitted to the consulate general for the adopted babies cannot be granted in time, stranding many US families in Guangdong," Li said on Monday. "Only when the visas have been obtained for the adopted babies can the US families book or change their international flights to start their journey back home."
But Li said she believed most of the families stranded in the city will be able to return home in two to three days.
Glitches were first reported in the US State Department's consular consolidated database on July 19. The database keeps all background-check records on individuals seeking US visas.
The visa service for the adopted babies returned to online working last week, but is operating at significantly reduced capacity and it is not known when it will be fully operational.
Li helped the families to submit visa applications for three adopted babies in Guangzhou on Monday.
The US Consulate General is the only organization that handles visa applications for the adopted babies on the Chinese mainland.