US visa glitch hits young Kiwis heading to work

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A US State Department computer glitch, which delayed passports and visas being issued around its global embassies, has blocked several young Kiwis heading for northern summer jobs.

The American consular computer system crashed worldwide on June 9.

While all visa-issuing embassies and consulates are now back online, there are major delays.

Young New Zealanders booked in to work as camp counsellors and au pairs have been unable to get visas, and had to put their trips on hold and fork out hundreds of dollars in altered travel plans.

"It's partially back up but there is a back log and many people just cannot get to where they are supposed to be," said Vicki Kenny of specialist overseas employment agency International Working Holidays (IWH), which manages Camp America and Nannies Abroad in New Zealand.

The issue is not specific to any particular country or visa category.

The US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs has apologised on its website to travellers and accepted "that this has caused hardship to some individuals waiting for visas as well as families and employers".

The problem has affected IWH's camp counsellors and nannies that had J-1 visa appointments after June 8.

US embassies and consulates have also been unable to process any new J-1 visa applications submitted on or after June 9.

Rebekah Joyce was due to fly to the USA with IWH but has twice had to push back her flights because of the visa situation.

"Although I'm a returner, I've missed my first week of training which is where you meet everyone and build the important relationships," she said.

Riana O'Neill has also had to change her flights "at least twice".

She was meant to leave on June 17 and has now missed all of orientation week and will most likely arrive after the first group of kids have already started camp.

Bridget Knight spent $500 to fly to Auckland for the day for the US consulate to tell her they can't process her visa because of the delay.

And Liv Brackenridge had to pay an extra $1400 to change her flights because of the delays.

"They have started issuing visas again but there are still large delays and many young New Zealanders are caught up in the problem and are badly affected financially with delayed flights and camp or job starts," Ms Kenny said.

- NZME.

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