Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Kiwis out of pocket after US visa glitch

The computer glitch that stopped US authorities from issuing passports and visas has been fixed. Photo / File
The computer glitch that stopped US authorities from issuing passports and visas has been fixed. Photo / File

The computer glitch that stopped US authorities from issuing passports and visas has been fixed and the New Zealand backlog "cleared", but Kiwis are still out of pocket and struggling to make new travel plans.

The American consular computer system crashed worldwide on June 9 grinding its visa-issuing service to a standstill.

While most New Zealanders could still travel to the US unaffected under the Visa Waiver Program, the crash blocked many Kiwis requiring a visa for northern summer jobs.

Camp counsellors and au pairs have had to put their trips on hold and fork out hundreds of dollars in altered travel plans while awaiting their visa and security clearances.

"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.

A spokeswoman for the US Consulate General in Auckland said the system came back online on Friday and there is "no existing backlog".

"We apologise for the inconveniences caused by the system outage," she said.

"We understand and share applicants' frustrations. We have been working night and day, both here and in the US, to resolve this issue."

Since Friday, the Auckland-based visa team have dealt with all outstanding approved visas.

But the experience has let a foul taste in the mouth of some US-bound workers.

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.

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.

"It's been very frustrating"


Riana O'Neill has had her bags packed for three weeks.

The 18-year-old has been looking forward to fulfilling her dream as a Camp America counsellor since she signed up after leaving Christchurch Girls' High School last year.

The Rhode Island camp officially started today (Monday, US time).

The children have arrived, as have the other international camp counsellors.

But despite being booked to leave on June 17, she is still in New Zealand, frustrated by the US computer system collapse which has delayed the issuing of her work visa.

"I've literally been waiting for three weeks for them to print something out," said Ms O'Neill today.

"It's been very frustrating. I've been checking my emails 24/7 and calling far too many people."

She has twice had to change her flight plans, at a cost of $300.

Today she flew from Christchurch to Auckland in anticipation of getting her visa tomorrow.

She will then try and get the next plane to America.

"Camp America has been really good about it all but I can't say the same about the US authorities. The communication has been awful, with terrible updates."

- NZME.

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