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Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

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The 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 U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.

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 since Saturday, spokeswoman Marie Harf said. She said the problem is worldwide and not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category.

"We apologize to applicants and recognize this may cause hardship to applicants waiting on visas and passports. We are working to correct the issue as quickly as possible," she said.

Read MoreHomeland Security ramps up security at some overseas airports

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 an official at a U.S. embassy said some 50,000 applicants were hit in one country alone.

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.

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