A computer crash yesterday left hundreds of UK workers, students and visitors without valid residence permits, creating a month-long backlog for Blighty's immigration staff to clear.
IT systems at the Border Agency have reportedly suffered outages for the past few weeks, but on Thursday the organisation's Croydon office completely crashed. People queuing for appointments to get biometric visas and permits, which allow them to stay in Britain, had to be sent home - some reportedly in tears - and they now face the possibility of not being able to travel until their documents are in order.
According to the Guardian, folks were not allowed to rebook on the spot but were made to go home and reapply online.
The freeze-up at Lunar House has had a knock-on effect on Border Agency appointments elsewhere as all available slots are booked up for the next three weeks.
Some applicants complained that the location of new appointments were at the far end of the country. Even people who had paid £1,324 for a 24-hour visa turnarounds were put back into the system and face waits of several weeks.
Biz bosses with foreign workers on their books said the system was not fit for purpose and that the snafu has raised concerns about the Border Agency's ability to cope with the 2012 Olympics.
The biometric residence permit system in Croydon was supplied as part of the Immigration and Asylum Biometric System (IABS) contract, which involves services and technology from IBM, Fujitsu, CSC, Atos Origin and Sagem Sécurité (SAFRAN Group).
In a statement to El Reg, the UK Border Agency said:
We are experiencing some IT problems in our Croydon Public Enquiry office which we are working to resolve as soon as possible.
In order to complete cases that have been affected, we will be reducing the number of daily appointments until 18 May.