The US State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for US passports and visas, officials have said.
Unspecified glitches in the department's Consular Consolidated Database have resulted in "significant performance issues, including outages" in the processing of applications for passports, visas and reports of Americans born abroad, spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
She said the problem is worldwide and not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category.
"We apologise to applicants and recognise this may cause hardship to applicants waiting on visas and passports. We are working to correct the issue as quickly as possible," she said.
Harf said the problems with the database have resulted in an "extensive backlog" of applications, which has, in turn, hampered efforts to get the system fully back on line.
It was not immediately clear how many people are affected, but two US officials familiar with the situation said some 50,000 applicants were hit in one country alone.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly or identify the country.
The database is the State Department's system of record and is used to approve, record and print visas and other documents to ensure that national security checks are conducted on applicants.