Thousands of holiday-hungry jet-setters could be forced to wait even longer for their new passports due to a major technical glitch.
A computer system crash at the Sydney Passport Office caused chaos on Tuesday with massive lines snaking more than 150 meters to Central Station all day, with some being asked to return on Wednesday.
Eager travelers miss work and study to join the long queue at dawn, hours before the passport office opens.
At 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the queue already numbered at least 200 people, two hours before the opening of the office.
This adds to unprecedented demand as Australians across the country have joined massive queues outside passport offices in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in recent weeks to renew their expired documents.
Sydney University student Ed Andronicus has been waiting nine weeks for his new passport which he will need when he travels to Bali next month.
Around 100 people were already waiting outside the Sydney passport office at 6.30am on Wednesday, two hours before the office opened.
He spent four hours in the massive queue at the passport office on Tuesday when his long wait came to an abrupt end due to technical difficulties.
‘One of the ladies in the queue came in to ask what was going on and they said the system had crashed and I wouldn’t come in until 6 p.m.,’ he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Wednesday.
“I have college and assessments to do so I couldn’t wait all day so I’m going to have to go back next week.”
“Everyone in the queue was pretty depressed and wondering what was going on because no one was really telling us what the story was.
“We had to find out for ourselves.”
Long queues have already formed on Wednesday morning.
“At least my line neighbors are friendly,” one woman captioned the photo.
Another woman arrived at 6.40am to find the queue around the block of around 200 people.
But Tanya told Fordham the office was “super organized” and already had two queues going.
Mr Andronicus was not the only frustrated customer on Tuesday, many others took to social media to express their anger.
“I’ve been waiting at the Sydney passport office for almost nine hours today. No communication on what’s going on, turned away people who have been waiting all day with flights tomorrow as the printers have been switched off now (they were supposed to close at 4 p.m.) Horrible,” one woman fumed.
Australians across the country joined massive queues outside passport offices in Sydney. Melbourne and Perth to renew their passports (pictured, lines in Sydney)
The demand for new passports follows two years of international border closures as holiday-starved Australians finally seek to escape.
With 2.4 million passports expiring during the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times have doubled since October 2021.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has advised holidaymakers to allow six weeks for their new passports, but many say they have waited longer.
Citizens can choose to pay an additional $225 on top of the $308 application fee to have their passport processed within two days.
However, even priority passports appear to be struggling under the weight of demand, with a four-week backlog on these.
The Sydney Passport Office typically receives 7,000 to 9,000 applications each week, but applications in recent months have soared to 12,000.
It was a similar story at the Melbourne office, where desperate Australians – including mothers with children – spent three hours waiting in the cold.
Images of the long queues outside the Sydney Passport Office have caused uproar on social media.
“If you want to go abroad next year, order your passport today at the latest,” one man tweeted on Tuesday.
“How do some people get their passports back and others wait more than eight weeks,” another woman asked.
A computer system crash added to chaos at the Sydney passport office on Tuesday
Citizens can pay an additional $225 on top of the $308 application fee to have their passport processed in priority within two days (photo, an image of an Australian passport)
With 2.4 million passports expiring during the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times have doubled since October (pictured, lines outside the Sydney Passport Office)
“I am not talking about those who have opted for the fast execution service. Stop putting people on hold for hours and then cutting them off,” said a third.
‘I went to the Sydney Passport Office to expedite my son’s passport on June 2 as my stepfather passed away and we needed to travel immediately,’ another wrote.
“They said they could expedite the application after paying the priority fee, but they couldn’t get it until the 7th. Because there’s 10 times the normal charge, it seems.
“What should people do in an emergency? There is no phone support. Absolutely no concern or sympathy.
Sharnyce Hudson and Ethan Hall from Western Australia had been looking forward to a vacation in Bali, but they are still waiting for their passports after nine weeks.
While the Sydney passport office normally receives around 7,000-9,000 applications, applications have risen to 10,000-12,000 (pictured, Perth airport arrivals in March)
The couple said they drove five hours overnight from Geraldton to Perth to get to the Australian passport office a day before they left.
“We’re supposed to take off tomorrow at 3.40am and at this point it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere,” Ms Hudson told 7News.
A mother plans to travel to the UK with her five-month-old baby but had to wait months for her child’s passport to be approved.
“I’ve been waiting for his passport for three months and we’re traveling for a week on Mondays. I tried to send an email, the phone line is completely cut,’ she said on Friday.
A DFAT spokeswoman has since apologized for the delays and said wait times should stabilize “over the next few weeks.”
Federation of Australian Travel Agents CEO Dean Long has warned it could be the end of the year before passport wait times decrease (pictured, Melbourne Immigration Department)
“We continue to onboard and train additional staff for passport processing and call centers to meet increased demand,” she said.
“Customers will soon begin to see a reduction in current delays over the next few weeks. We thank people for their patience.
However, Federation of Australian Travel Agents CEO Dean Long has warned that it could be the end of the year before passport waiting times ease.
“There are about two million passports that have expired in the last two years and there just isn’t enough capacity in this system to handle the number of applications they’re trying to process,” he said. told Neil Mitchell on 3AW Radio.
“We tell our customers…it’s about eight to 12 weeks.”