UK immigration warns visa application computers may crash again

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Earlier this month, the UK Border Agency's computer system crashed and led to the cancellation of 500 visa appointments, and officials warn that it could happen again.

UKBA chief executive Rob Whiteman said that the computer systems are "prone to falling over", and that the issue was "a constant frustration" and may not be quick to fix. Whiteman explained that the problem was caused by a network error and if it happened again it would affect several UK visa applications and appointments.

"[Information technology] is going to be a recurring theme, and what we have to do at the moment is put in place some reviews and studies," Whiteman told MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. "The systems are still prone to resilience problems and that will not be put right overnight."

On 3 May, the UK Border Agency's main UK visa processing system crashed, forcing hundreds of people to be turned away. Although the system is now available again, it has imposed significant delays on biometric appointments. A spokesman for the UK's immigration department said that they were working to resolve the issues as soon as possible and in order to deal with cases that have been affected, they are reducing the number of daily appointments made until 18 May 2012.

Critics have warned that the UK visa application delays could cost the UK money and drive foreign investors and entrepreneurs to other countries.

"This is yet another example of UKBA's failure to plan properly for a new scheme. In the past over £750 million has been wasted over e-borders and £9.1 million on unreliable iris scanners," said Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. "UKBA must ensure they have the technology in place to cope with new policy before it is introduced."

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