Vacation-eager Australians are left disappointed, as protracted delays in getting renewals or passports throw their travel plans into chaos.
Travelers are advised to allow up to six weeks for their passport application, but many customers are reporting balloon wait times.
For West Australians Sharnies Hudson and Ethan Hall, their enthusiasm for a Bali getaway has turned to despair.
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“It’s been nine weeks today. We’re due to fly tomorrow at 3.40 and at this point it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere,” Hudson told Nation World News.
The couple made the five-hour journey from Geraldton to Perth overnight to join dozens of people waiting for hours outside the Australian passport office in the city.
“We came here at 3 a.m. to plead our case, it probably won’t do anything, but we will fight it,” Hall said.
Zahra Ghurbanin said that she has been waiting for 10 weeks for her daughter’s passport after she has already received her passport.
“From Monday till today, I come here every day for two hours,” she told Nation World News.
“We fly on June 17th … I’m absolutely worried.”
A mother prepares to move to the UK to see family after three years, but the application for her five-month-old is still pending.
“I have been waiting for three months for his passport and we travel for a week on Monday. I have tried to email, the phone line is completely off,” she told Nation World News.
Australians held abroad due to COVID-19 border restrictions are also facing long delays in renewing their passports to return home.
Processing time blow-outs and unprecedented demand have created months of delays for updated paperwork, with some Australians overseas waiting for more than three months.
The situation is so bad that an Australian in New Zealand who has expired to initiate the process this week will not be able to travel until mid-September – even for emergencies.
“Whether applying in Australia or overseas, customers must have up to six weeks to obtain or renew a new passport,” a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
DFAT said it is experiencing “unprecedentedly high demand” for passports, with over 1.2 million issued since June 30 last year – almost double from fiscal year 2020-21.
It normally receives around 7000 to 9000 applications a day, but this rose to 10,000 to 12,000 with an increase in travelers eager to escape the winter chill.
“We currently have about four weeks of work in the processing queue,” a spokesperson told Nation World News.com.au.
“This has resulted in longer than normal call center wait times, as well as increased customer queues at our passport offices.”
Passport pains are being felt around the world, with some potential travelers in the UK having to cancel plans after not receiving their passports on time.
The UK Passport Office said 5 million people had delayed their applications due to the pandemic, causing a delay of about 10 weeks.
Canadians are reporting similar wait times, with local news outlets sharing images of long queues from passport offices as Service Canada struggles with an “unprecedented volume of applications”.
DFAT apologized to customers affected by the delay, and said additional passport processing and call center staff were being trained to meet the demand.
As a relief for the Aussies or not, DFAT says that “customers will soon start to see a reduction in existing delays in the coming weeks”.
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