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Need a US visa, passport? Prepare for misery: Database crash strands thousands

'It's going to take a little while'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

An unspecified glitch in a global database used by the US government to issue passports and travel visas has left countless people around the world unable to travel for the last few days, according to State Department officials.

"The Bureau of Consular Affairs has been experiencing technical problems with our passport and visa system," Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, said in a press briefing on Thursday. "The issue is worldwide, not specific to any particular country."

The database in question, known as the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), is said to be one of the largest Oracle-based data warehouses in the world. It holds over 100 million records of visa cases and 75 million photographs, and it currently processes around 35,000 new visa cases every day.

The system reportedly crashed following scheduled maintenance earlier this week and was out of operation for as much as a few days. Service has since been restored but only in a "limited capacity," and the downtime has resulted in a backlog of visa and passport processing that will take some time to work through.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Oracle or the State Department's IT staff was to blame for the outage, but Harf did say that the crash wasn't the result of any outside attack.

"We do not believe there was any malicious action or anything untoward here," Harf said. "This was a technical issue, and again, we are working to correct it and should be fully operational again soon."

In the meantime, it's not known just how many people have been left stranded while waiting for their US visas and other travel documents, but two US officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that as many as 50,000 applicants had been affected in one unnamed country alone.

Harf could not say how long it would take to clear the visa backlog or when the database would be restored to fully operational status. "It's going to take a little while, so we ask people to be patient," she said.

As of Friday morning, the State Department had yet to respond to The Reg's request for an update. ®

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