Australians looking to renew their passports face a wait of up to six weeks as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) deals with a backlog of applications.
The delays are caused by would-be travellers who put off renewing their travel documents while pandemic travel restrictions were still in place.
A DFAT spokesperson said there had been “significant increases in passport demand” since the international border reopened.
“Currently, around 8500 passport applications per working day, or 42,500 per week, are lodged with the department,” the spokesperson told The New Daily.
“This is more than double the passport demand seen 12 months ago, which was about 3200 per working day or 16,000 per week.”
This has prompted the department to advise a wait time of six weeks, up from an estimated wait time of three weeks just six months ago.
The average turnaround is 17 business days.
Over the past 12 months, the department estimates 1.7 million Australians either put off renewing their expired passport or applying for their first.
Internal documents from July 2021, obtained by The Guardian, claim the Australian Passport Office had “a well-developed plan in place aimed at bringing forward some of this pent-up demand and managing a future spike in applications when travel restrictions ease”.
Since January 2021, it has sent SMS messages to more than 2.3 million Australians whose passports have expired or are close to expiring.
Dean Long, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, praised the Passport Office for so far managing to process applications within its specified waiting period.
“We know that there was a huge number of people who had their passports expired over the last two-and-a-half years,” he told TND.
He added that many Australians who are heading overseas at the moment are seasoned travellers who are across all the usual requirements.
“We are finding most people who are looking to travel have already typically checked their passports,” Mr Long said.
“They’ve already done a bit more research about what they can and can’t do. So they’re a bit more ahead of the times than before.”
The United States faced a similar backlog last year when citizens began travelling in large numbers again.
According to the Henley Passport Index, Australia’s travel document ranks seventh in the world for visa-free travel, alongside Canada, Greece, the Czech Republic and Malta.