Passport wait times: Sydney office’s computer system crashes, adds to delays


Passport chaos continues as thousands of Aussies already waiting months for their documents told it could be even longer as system struggles to cope with surge of applications

  • Aussies looking to renew their passports are facing unprecedented delays
  • Footage shows massive lines outside passport offices in Sydney and Melbourne
  • Computer system crashed at the Sydney office, sparking chaotic scenes 
  • 200 already waiting outside office two hours before office opened Wednesday
  •  Experts warn eager travellers could be waiting for eight to 12 weeks to travel

Thousands of holiday-starved jetsetters may be forced to wait even longer for their new passport due a major technical glitch.

A computer system crash at the Sydney passport office caused chaos on Tuesday with massive lines snaking more than 150 metres back to Central Station the entire day, with some told to come back on Wednesday.

Eager travellers are taking time off work and study to join the lengthy queue at the crack of dawn, hours before the passport office opens its doors.

At 6.30am Wednesday, the queue was already at least 200 people long, two hours before the office opened.

It’s on top of unprecedented demand as Australians around 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 needs when he travels to Bali next month.

Around 100 people were already waiting outside the Sydney Passport Office at 6.30am Wednesday, two hours before the office opens its doors

Around 100 people were already waiting outside the Sydney Passport Office at 6.30am Wednesday, two hours before the office opens its doors

He spent four hours in the massive line at the passport office on Tuesday when his long wait came to an abrupt halt due to the technical difficulties.

‘One of the ladies in the queue went in to ask what was happening and they said the system had crashed and I wouldn’t be getting in till 6pm,’ he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Wednesday.

‘I’ve got uni and assessments to do so I couldn’t wait around all day so I’m just going to have to go back next week.’

‘Everyone in the queue was pretty down and wondering what was happening as 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 neighbours are friendly,’ one woman captioned the photo.

Another woman arrived at 6.40am to find the queue around the block around 200 people long.

But Tanya told Fordham the office was ‘super organised’ and already have two queues running.

Mr Andronicus wasn’t the only frustrated customer on Tuesday with many others took to social media to vent their anger.

‘Been waiting at Sydney passport office for almost nine hours today. No communication about what is going on, people being turned away who have been waiting all day with flights tomorrow, because the printers have been turned off now (they were meant to close at 4pm). Appalling,’ one woman fumed.

Australians around the country have joined massive queues outside passport offices in Sydney. Melbourne and Perth to renew their passports (pictured, lines in Sydney)

Australians around the country have 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, with holiday-starved Aussies finally looking to make an escape. 

With 2.4million passports expiring over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times have doubled since October 2021. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advised holidaymakers to allow six weeks for their new passport, however many say they have waited longer. 

Citizens can choose to pay an extra $225 on top of the $308 application fee for their passport to be priority processed in two days. 

However, even the priority passports appear to be struggling under the weight of demand, with a four-week backlog on those. 

Sydney’s passport office usually receives 7,000 to 9,000 applications every week, however requests in recent months have ballooned to 12,000. 

It  was a similar story at the Melbourne office, where desperate Aussies – including mothers with children – have spent three hours waiting in the cold. 

Footage of the lengthy queues outside the Sydney passport office caused uproar on social media.  

‘If you want to go overseas next year, order your passport today at the latest,’ one man tweeted on Tuesday. 

‘How are some people getting passports back and others of us are waiting well over eight weeks,’ another woman asked. 

A computer system crash added to the chaos at Sydney Passport Office on Tuesday

A computer system crash added to the chaos at Sydney Passport Office on Tuesday

Citizens can pay an extra $225 on top of the $308 application fee for their passport to be priority processed in two days (pictured, a stock image of an Australian passport)

Citizens can pay an extra $225 on top of the $308 application fee for their passport to be priority processed in two days (pictured, a stock image of an Australian passport)

With 2.4million passports expiring over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times have doubled since October (pictured, lines outside the Sydney passport office)

With 2.4million passports expiring over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times have doubled since October (pictured, lines outside the Sydney passport office)

‘I’m not talking about those who opted for the rapid turnaround service. Stop putting people on hold for hours then cutting them off,’ a third said.

‘I visited passport office Sydney to expedite my son’s passport on 2nd June, because my father in law passed away and we needed to travel immediately,’ another wrote. 

‘They said they can expedite the application after paying the priority fee, but cannot get it until 7th. Because there is 10 times normal load it seems. 

‘What should people do in case of emergencies? There is no support on phone. Absolutely no care or compassion.’ 

Sharnyce Hudson and Ethan Hall from Western Australia were looking forward to a holiday in Bali, yet they are still waiting for their passports after nine weeks.

While Sydney's passport office normally receives around 7,000 to 9,000 applications, requests have ballooned to 10,000 to 12,000 (pictured, arrivals at Perth airport in March)

While Sydney’s passport office normally receives around 7,000 to 9,000 applications, requests have ballooned to 10,000 to 12,000 (pictured, arrivals at Perth airport in March)

The pair said they drove five hours through the night from Geraldton to Perth to get to the Australian passport office a day before they are due to fly out. 

‘We are supposed to be flying out tomorrow at 3.40am and at this point it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere,’ Ms Hudson told 7News. 

One mother has plans to travel to the UK with her five-month-old baby, but has had to wait months for her child’s passport to be approved.

‘I’ve been waiting three months for his passport and we travel a week on Monday. I’ve tried to email, the phone line is completely dead,’ she said on Friday.

A DFAT spokeswoman has since apologised for the delays and said waiting times should level out ‘over the coming weeks’. 

CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Dean Long, warned it might be the end of the year before passport wait times eased (pictured, Melbourne's Department of Immigration)

CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Dean Long, warned it might be the end of the year before passport wait times eased (pictured, Melbourne’s Department of Immigration)

‘We continue to onboard and train additional passport processing and call centre staff to meet the increased demand,’ she said.

‘Customers will soon start to see a reduction in the current delays over the coming weeks. We thank people for their patience.’

However, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Dean Long, warned it might be the end of the year before passport wait times eased. 

‘There’s about two million passports expired in the last two years and there’s just not enough capacity in that system to process the number of applications they’re trying to,’ he told Neil Mitchell on 3AW Radio. 

‘We’re advising our customers … it’s about eight to 12 weeks.’

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