Australia passport renewal wait times doubled to six weeks as demand surges

The Australian Passport Office has doubled the processing time for passports, as a large backlog of renewal applications swamps the service.

The average processing time has ballooned by 70 per cent since the announcement last year that international borders would open in November.

Since November 1, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has changed its advice to allow up to six weeks to receive a passport – previously three weeks.

"Due to the increased demand, passport applications are on average taking around 17 business days to process," a spokesperson for DFAT said.

This is compared with the previous average processing time of 10 business days.

Applicants have complained of long processing times, lengthy phone waits or calls going unanswered, and exorbitant fees for express processing.

"When your new passport arrives with 3 hours to spare. Thanks @dfat! Almost worth the $300USD fee..." one Twitter user wrote.

"Has anyone actually managed to get through to the Australian Passport office via phone? It doesn't even give you the option of waiting, just ends the call," another online critic posted.

Griffith University professor Ian Hall was among the Australians unable to get through.

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Hall's attempt to renew his children's passports has been dragged out since February 14.

"One passport was issued and arrived about a month later. But the other one hasn't appeared," Hall said.

"Unfortunately, there is no way to track these applications – you have to apply at the post office to renew kids' passports and then they disappear into the ether."

Hall claims he tried as many as 10 times over the course of a week to contact a representative.

"Every time the recorded message says they have high demand and long wait times. On all but one call, I was disconnected because they don't have capacity to take the call," he said.

The academic finally received a response from DFAT along with a promise to expedite the passport after submitting a complaint online.

"I recognise that the Passport Office is working hard to process a high number of applications, as the borders have opened. But the opening was anticipated and the lack of information about applications is incredibly frustrating," he said.

A DFAT spokesperson said processing time for passports depends on the complexity of the applications and whether the forms have been completed correctly.

"We often find delays occur when customers have not provided all the necessary information," the spokesperson said.

DFAT has issued more than 860,000 passports since July 1, 2021, with more than 600,000 of these passports issued since November 1 of last year.

In 2022 alone there have been more than 389,000 passports issued, more than double the total number issued during the same period in 2021.

Over the past 12 months, DFAT estimates approximately 1.7 million Australians have either put off renewing their expired passports or are applying for a passport for the first time. To counter this, a targeted campaign was launched, sending emails and SMS messages reminders to around 2.3 million Australians, warning that their passport has either expired or was due to expire soon.

Australian passports are among the world's most expensive, with an adult 10-year passport starting from $308 or $533 if express processing is required.

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