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UK visa system computer failure causes delays

On 3 May, the UK Border Agency's main UK visa processing system crashed, forcing hundreds of people to be turned away.

Applicants were already queueing at the UKBA's public inquiry office in Croydon, applying to extend or renew biometric residence permits, when they were told to go home on Thursday because the computer system had crashed. Although the system is now available again, it has imposed significant delays on biometric appointments.

The UKBA uses the system to store the details of more than 600,000 foreign nationals living in the UK. The system has experienced repeated failures in recent weeks that, ultimately, resulted in its crashing this week.

Since 29 February 2012, all applicants in the UK are required to obtain a biometric residence permit if they are applying to stay in the UK for more than 6 months. This includes applicants applying for indefinite leave to remain. The biometric permits store an individual's fingerprints and photograph on a secure chip. This data can then be used to obtain information concerning an immigrant's work rights and benefits status.

A spokesman for the UKBA 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.

Visa applicants whose appointments have been cancelled can rebook through the agency's website or submit their applications by post. Although it is important to note that sending it via post means longer processing times.

Among those affected were foreign nationals who had paid the premium fee for an expedited visa service that typically means that their visa is processed within one or two days. This may be useful for example in a situation where you need to travel urgently.

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