How to beat the long and frustrating passport queues

Owen Leonard, Hamish SpenceNCA NewsWire
Long queues outside passport offices have been frequently occurring across the country.
Camera IconLong queues outside passport offices have been frequently occurring across the country. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Wait times for passport renewals could soon be slashed in a relief for Australians facing long queues and months-long delays for their documents to arrive.

With international borders back open and the chance to escape the Aussie winter a reality once more, here is everything you need to know about the passport predicament and what you can do to expedite the process.

PASSPORT OFFICE
Camera IconLong queues outside passport offices have been frequently occurring across the country. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

THE ISSUE:

Australians have been renewing their passports in record numbers after many expired over the pandemic when international borders were closed and overseas travel wasn’t possible.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson previously told NCA NewsWire that renewal applications per working day had ballooned by 40 per cent, with record-high demand – on the back of borders reopening – creating a significant administrative backlog.

Confused customers, some of whom had been waiting for their new passports for 10 weeks, began lining up at offices hoping for answers on where their documents were as their travel plans were thrown into limbo.

Staff members at passport offices weren’t authorised to speak with media but were quietly telling customers they couldn’t cope.

Some Australians even took to Airtasker to offer money for those willing to wait in line on their behalf, with a Sydney woman posting a $70 job for anyone brave enough to wait in the long queues for her.

Wait times outside Sydney’s passport office reportedly extended out to six hours, while Melbourne customers faced four-hour delays.

Australian passports, travel, tourist, map, generic.
Camera IconWait times at Sydney's passport office could soon be reduced to just an hour and a half. Credit: News Limited

THE LATEST:

Wait times outside Sydney’s passport office should be slashed to 90 minutes after DFAT overhauled the collection process and added new staff following similar changes in Melbourne, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Wait times for customers simply seeking information have reportedly fallen by about 75 per cent at the Melbourne office, with a similar effect expected in Sydney after a “pop-up” site is implemented on the ground floor.

Those picking up their passports will soon receive their documents from the pop-up alternative rather than heading up to level 7.

It means customers who have received a message indicating their passport is ready for collection will only have to wait about 20 minutes, rather than two hours, while those looking for answers and seeking information should only face 90-minute delays rather than six hours.

Graduate-year DFAT staff members have reportedly been made to work in passport offices full-time to help clear the backlog, with ABC journalist Stephen Dziedzic recently taking to Twitter to divulge the news.

“The entire 2022 DFAT grad year is toiling away in the passport office,” he wrote.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BEAT THE QUEUES?

While some have taken to camping outside the passport office in Sydney overnight, DFAT does offer a priority processing option.

The catch is it will set you back an extra $225 on top of the initial $300 renewal fee.

But forking out for priority processing should be considered if your overseas flight is fast-approaching.

PASSPORT OFFICE
Camera IconPeople are seen queuing up outside the Passport Office in Sydney on Tuesday. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

IS THE GOVERNMENT TO BLAME?

With similar issues in Canada, Canadian man Peter Ratcliffe offered a change of tone on Twitter, opining the government wasn’t to blame for long processing times.

“This blame the government for all your problems has got to stop,” he said.

“You let your passport expire. You booked a trip without a valid passport. The government system has been overwhelmed by your poor choices.

“That is the responsibility of many people just like you, not government.”

Originally published as How to beat the long and frustrating passport queues

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