Whilst the most recent IT glitch at RBS attracted much media coverage; the inability of US Embassies globally to process visa applications since the 9th of June has attracted very little attention. The stoppage has had a particularly severe impact on business travellers (who cannot use the visa waiver programme), and has already resulted in two bands cancelling US tours! The US authorities have provided very little information about the problem, apart from saying that there is no evidence that it was a result of a cyber attack; and ten days into the incident there is still no indication of when the system will be running again.
One would hope that, as part of their post-incident review, the US State Department would be revisiting the resilience of the visa system: more than the financial loss from the outage, the extended disruption has caused significant reputational damage to the department. The incident is also of interest to any organisations who rely on visas, customs and similar services to conduct their business: what contingency plans can be put in place to mitigate the risks of events like these? Finally, in the absence of official data, the media have turned to other sources of information, who have willingly supplied them with allegation that there have been previous problems with the visa system.