June 17, 2015

Computer Glitch Delays H-2A Visa Processing

The United States is experiencing a worldwide delay in the processing of visas and passports at its consulates and embassies abroad, including Mexico, due to technical difficulties.

“A hardware failure on June 9 halted the flow of biometric clearance requests from posts to the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). Individuals who submitted online applications or were interviewed for visas on or after June 9 may experience a delay in the processing,” according to a statement by the State Department. This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category, the State Department noted.

About 1,000 approved H-2A workers from Mexico have been stranded for over a week at consulates in Tijuana and Nogales, waiting for visas so they can cross into the U.S. and begin working in berry harvest operations.

The Wall Street Journal’s Miriam Jordan covered the story which ran on the front page of today’s (June 16, 2016) print edition. Western Growers’ Vice President and General Counsel Jason Resnick spoke to Jordan about the issue and is quoted in the article, saying “It’s a crisis.” Jordan also references Resnick who told her ‘more than 1,000 workers who expected H-2A agricultural visas are stuck on the Mexican side of the border, where motels are overflowing. The workers are overdue to start harvesting berries and other crops on U.S. farms. Mr. Resnick estimated that California agriculture, already stressed by drought, is losing $500,000 to $1 million for each day of delay.’  CLICK HERE to view the Wall Street Journal story. Please note that due to paywall restrictions we cannot post the article and only readers with WSJ online accounts may log in to view the full story. 

Western Growers has been in contact with congressional and State Department offices to request that H-2A visas be issued on an emergency or priority basis due to the perishability of berries and other crops that rely on H-2A workers to perform harvest work.

The issue involves the hardware systems that are in place to perform required national security checks before visas may be issued. As a result, consulates are unable to print visas, regular passports overseas, and other travel documents.  The State Department said that it cannot bypass the legal requirements necessary to screen visa applicants before issuing visas for travel. As a result, there is a backlog of visas waiting to be processed.

Sources close to the issue report that the State Department is working “24/7” to correct the problem, but there is no timeline to restore full system functionality. A statement issued by the department said, “We regret the inconvenience to travelers, and remain committed to facilitating legitimate travel while protecting our borders. We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect our system to be fully operational again soon.”