Travel: Australians’ plans in limbo as passport wait times skyrocket

Thousands of Australians have been left in limbo with passport wait times skyrocketing and renewal costs hitting the hip pocket.

Thousands of Australians are in the limbo of passports with wait times for renewals exceeding 10 weeks and government staff struggling to cope with long queues of frustrated customers.

A passport renewal costs upwards of $300, with priority processing available for an additional $225.

But many Australians have to wait months for their new passports to be processed, throwing their travel plans into chaos.

Julie, 52, who asked that her surname not be used, spoke to NCA NewsWire outside the Australian Passport Office in Melbourne after being turned away because she had not yet received an email indicating that the document was ready, despite its waiting time now exceeding 10 weeks.

Her travel plans — she hopes to travel to Hawaii with her husband in August — are in limbo.

“I rang morning and evening,” she said.

“I went online and it’s pending or whatever – it’s still being assessed.

“I thought if I went in (to the passport office) it might speed things up, but you can’t go up there unless you have an email, which I don’t.”

Another travel hopeful, 23, braved long queues after shelling out the extra fees to expedite his passport renewal.

When he finally got to the front of the queue, he was told, “We’re not picking up today. Come tomorrow or the day after”.

Passport office staff said they weren’t allowed to talk about the issue, but customers said workers quietly admitted they couldn’t cope.

“He saw thousands of people today. They just can’t cope – that’s what he said,” Julie said, referring to a staff member guarding the entrance to the office.

“I’m not the only one. There are thousands like me.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson said demand levels were “unprecedented” after international borders reopened.

According to DFAT, renewal requests per business day have increased by more than 40%.

“Due to record demand, passport applications are currently taking longer to process,” a spokesperson said.

“We currently have approximately four weeks of work in the processing queue.

“This is resulting in longer than usual wait times at call centers, as well as an increased number of customers queuing at our passport offices.”

DFAT said it is onboarding additional passport processing staff to tackle the backlog of applications, with wait times expected to decrease in the coming weeks.