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US consulate says it’s business as usual with visa applications
By Yang Meiping, Hu Min and Zhou

THE United States consulate in Shanghai said yesterday that it’s continuing to accept visa applications, despite ongoing technical problems in the US with processing.

It had earlier been reported that the consulate was halting new visa applications until the backlog could be cleared.

But Katie Reedy, the Shanghai US consulate public affairs officer and spokeswoman, denied this.

“The US consulate is not halting new visa applications,” she said.

Yesterday, more applicants than usual were queuing for interviews at the consulate. Some were making a return trip from last week, after earlier problems with names on interview lists.

This was also encountered yesterday by a student surnamed Zhang, who arrived only to discover that his name was not on the list.

However, he finally got in after officials realized that he had been given the wrong application number.

It was the second visit for a woman surnamed Tian, from Zhejiang Province. She made also the trip last week, only to be told that her name was not on the list.

To be on the safe side, she presented her new and previous form and was let in.

“There are two or three times as many people queuing up inside the consulate today than previously,” a man surnamed Zhu from Nanjing, Jiangsu Province said after leaving the building.

But he said he had not seen any problems inside the consulate.

The US embassy in Beijing yesterday gave an update on the database at the center of the disruptions.

The Consular Consolidated Database crashed shortly after maintenance, spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said.

“Until the system is fully functional and we are able to work through the backlog, service to our customers will be interrupted,” he added.

Meanwhile, travel agencies in Shanghai said the number of tourists affected by the technical problems affecting US visa applications is not large because tour groups usually make applications very early.

But some have suspended services offering help filling in US visa applications.

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