Passport wait time: Melbourne woman documents nine-hour queue at office, 8-week wait

As the passport office is lashed with a record number of applications, one Melbourne woman tried to beat the queue by getting to the office at 6am.

A Melbourne woman has documented her nine-hour wait at the passport office, after she made the desperate dash five days before her international flight.

This was despite the fact she applied for her passport eight weeks ago, with the Australia Passport Office advising travellers to allow up to six weeks to receive their passport.

Despite beginning her journey at 5.22am to get to the office, by the time TikTok user Raz (r.a.esthetics) arrived at 6am, the queues had already stretched into the surrounding streets.

“POV your passport you applied for eight weeks ago is nowhere to be seen and your flight is in five days,” she wrote in the video.

Captioning her clip, she wrote a tongue-in-cheek: “Can you tell I lost my will to live by the end?”

By the one-and-a-half-hour mark, she had made it from the street and into the building which housed the passport office. From there, it was another three-hour await until she reached the actual office.

“Finally spoke to someone at 3pm,” she wrote.

That’s six-and-a-half hours after the office opened – and nine hours after she arrived.

After spending most of Monday in the line, Raz was able to get her application expedited to priority and she waited a further two hours on Wednesday to pick up her passport.

She also said she didn’t have to pay the normal $225 priority processing fee as her application was overdue.

Passport applications and renewals have ballooned now that international travel has resumed. According to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, there are now an average of 10,000 to 12,000 applications made daily, despite pre-Covid figures sitting around 7000 to 9000.

On Tuesday alone, there were a record of 16,417 applications lodged.

‘Didn’t plan for the surge’

In an attempt to address the pressures and delays, the government has announced an additional call centre staffed with 35 employees, plus an 35 staff members to be added next week.

At least 250 staff members will also be hired over the next six months.

Speaking to 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Thursday morning, Labor MP Tim Watts said he hopes these moves will reduce processing times.

He also blamed the Liberal government for not giving people the foresight, calling it a “hospital pass from the previous government who didn’t plan for the surge”.

“You’ll start to see that will reduce the wait times [at the call centres] so that people don’t have to queue up to go get an answer on the status of their applications,” he said.

In October 2021, a DFAT spokeswoman warned that Australians with expired or expiring passports should get their application in as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Speaking to The Australian, the spokeswoman said surges in applications had been seen in other countries as a result of international borders reopening.

“Recent experience in the US and the UK has shown that there was a significant increase in applications ahead of international travel restrictions being lifted in these countries, resulting in long wait times for passports,” she said.

“While the department is doing everything it possibly can to prepare for a similar eventuality, longer than usual processing times cannot be ruled out.”

Some nations like Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore also refuse entry to travellers with passports that are set to expire in less than six months. Others require travellers to have a passport with at least three months of validity.

This includes countries in the European Union and New Zealand.

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