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Australians told to apply for passports as soon as possible amid lengthy delays

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The dreams of Australians planning a long-overdue overseas holiday continue to be thwarted, as passport production issues compound the travel industry’s already long list of problems.

Staff shortages at airlines and airports due to COVID-related sick leave and layoffs have led to flight delays and cancellations, missing luggage and security lines running outside terminals since Australian borders reopened.

Travellers who were hoping passport applications would be one factor to emerge unscathed from the sector’s pandemic recovery continue to be disappointed, as technological issues slow down production.

The problem reportedly left hundreds of Victorians lined up outside Melbourne’s Australian Passport Office on Tuesday, with many heading home empty-handed.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson told The New Daily the Australian Passport Office (APO) experienced ‘‘intermittent data transfer issues’’ which affected passport output on Monday and Tuesday.

‘‘A small number of customers were impacted by these issues,’’ they said.

‘‘We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to customers while we worked to resolve the issue. Wait times are now returning to previous levels.’’

This comes after DFAT announced a backlog of applications meant Australians looking to renew their passports faced a wait of up to six weeks.

In June, daily application numbers reached a record 16,417 – far more than the pre-pandemic daily average of up to 9000.

The DFAT spokesperson said the APO has nearly doubled its total number of workers since late May from 730 staff to about 1500 help staff call centres and process passport applications.

Staff are also working extended hours.

Australian Federation of Travel Agents CEO Dean Long said while travellers aren’t currently experiencing the same severe delays in getting their passports as they were earlier this year, there’s ‘‘no doubt’’ making travel bookings before receiving a passport creates issues.

Passport issues easing, but not over

Australian Frequent Flyer editor Matt Graham said Australians on the site’s forum were reporting passport delays of more than eight weeks, with one traveller reporting a total wait of 18 weeks for their child’s passport.

Such issues seem to have eased in recent weeks, as Graham said he had been seeing complaints of delays.

But this doesn’t mean Australians can breathe easy and leave their applications until the last minute.

The DFAT spokesperson said the APO is still seeing ‘‘unprecedented’’ demand for passports.

Make applications ASAP

The APO recommends allowing a minimum of six weeks in your travel plans to get a new passport or renew one, but Mr Long said you should allow at least eight weeks.

Passports usually don’t take longer than eight weeks to arrive unless the application is for a child with separated parents, who may face difficulty getting both sets of approvals.

‘‘Both parents and guardians need to approve the passport applications, and that is all set up to stop child abductions and those type of activities occurring,’’ Mr Long said.

‘‘This is a safeguard that rightly has a place in the system … but we do just say to those families, when you’re going through that process you need to allow that extra time, and take the time to fill the form in correctly the first time.’’

@unexpectedfamily

If you need you Aussie passport you better hurry up! they say 6 weeks wait but there is people here waiting for more than 12 weeks … they are saying to everyone”I will escalate, come next week” and nothing happens …. there are 10 windows and only 2 are open for customers !!!! C’mon!!! #passport #aussiepassport #passportofficesydney #planningtotravel #traveladventure #travelaustralia

♬ original sound – Krystel Mittnacht

With some Australians taking to social media to document their long waits in queues to get their passports, Mr Long said this shouldn’t be necessary, and to have it delivered to your home when possible.

If you’re on a tight deadline, he recommended paying the $225 priority fee to have your application fast-tracked.

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