Executive Summary: On June 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that it is experiencing technical problems with its visa system, which have resulted in delays in printing visas and may require rescheduling some visa interviews.
According to an update released by the DOS, the issue is not limited to a specific country or visa category. The agency stated that a hardware failure occurred on June 9, meaning individuals who submitted online applications or were interviewed for visas on or after June 9 may experience a delay in processing. As a result of this failure, the DOS cannot perform required national security checks and cannot print visas. This has resulted in a backlog of visas waiting to be processed and has disrupted or prevented some of the Department's primary data-share partners from accessing visa records.
The agency has stated that it expects the visa systems to be fully operational again "soon," but has not provided any timeline. The DOS has also stated that this issue is unrelated to the technological problems it experienced last summer, which took several days to resolve and weeks to clear the processing backlog.
Employers' Bottom Line: Employers with foreign workers who are currently overseas, or planning to travel overseas in the near future, in order to apply for a visa should be aware that DOS has experienced a computer glitch and is not processing any visas at this time. Employees may have to reschedule their consulate visa appointments and could be detained overseas for longer than expected or desired.
Therefore, it is critical to contact your immigration counsel immediately to evaluate the risks associated with sending foreign employees overseas to apply for visas before DOS has resolved the technical glitch. Companies should identify and educate any foreign employees who will be traveling overseas in the near future to apply for a visa. For employees who have not yet left the U.S., companies should evaluate whether the international travel is necessary and what the costs are to the company if the employee is detained for a lengthy period overseas. If the employee is already overseas awaiting a visa appointment or a visa to be issued, it is unclear how long the employee may be delayed overseas, in which case the company will need to consider how to mitigate the impact of that employee's absence on the business. We will keep you updated as more information regarding this issue becomes available.