Australian Passport Office queues stretch as request backlog is cleared
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Australian Passport Office queues stretch as request backlog is cleared

Travelers are forced to queue for days to resolve issues at Perth’s passport office as the Commonwealth government tries to clear a growing backlog of claims.

Camp chairs, long queues, and security guards managing the fiasco have become common sights outside the Australian Passport Office’s William Street outpost in the CBD.

People arrive at the office from 5:30 am daily to secure an early spot in the queue before the APO doors open at 8:30 am. The staff has asked people to leave the area – and return as soon as they receive instructions via text message – to ease tensions with surrounding businesses frustrated by the queues, understandably.

Australian Passport Office queues stretched as backlog of requests continues to be cleared | PerthNow

Camera IconThe Australian Passport Office in Perth at 7:15 am on Friday morning. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

Assistant Secretary of State Tim Watts blamed the previous Morrison government for the eruption of waiting times, claiming it was not preparing for the “expected” wave of passport applications following the reopening of Australia’s international borders. By September, an additional 1,100 employees have been pledged for the APO to handle the surge of claims and requests.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned people to expect a six-week wait before processing passport applications. “We are experiencing high demand for passports since Australia’s international border reopening,” DFAT said earlier this month.

“In the first three months of this year, we issued nearly 400,000 passports, more than double the total number we issued over the same period in 2021.”

Camera icon Louisa Walker arrived at 6 am. Friday morning. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

Joondalup, the mother of two, Louisa Walker, woke up at 4:45 am to get an early seat in the queue, hoping to talk to staff about her eight-year-old daughter’s passport, which she applied for in early March.

Ms. Walker and her husband hope to travel to the UK with their two young daughters to see their elderly and ailing parents for the first time in three years.

She was expelled from the APO office in Perth for the third time on Friday without her daughter’s passport.

Camera IconThe line is at 8 o’clock on Friday. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

The family has booked flights for Wednesday.

“My youngest daughter’s passport came back within three weeks, but they told me that my oldest’s passport was ‘lost in the system,'” Ms. Walker told The West Australian.

“So I waited for a while, thinking it would show up, but a month ago, I got a little nervous and called the helpline. “After being on hold for six hours, they told me it was all approved but lost in a print queue. They escalated it to find out.” I called back a week later and was told, ‘that’s escalated on an old system, so it’s not marked with anyone; I’ll now mark it with a human in Perth’.”

Ms. Walker said she was again told that her request had been made by staff on yet another “old system”, prompting her to visit the APO in person.

Staff told her on Friday that her daughter’s passport was trapped in Adelaide, and she would not be able to speak to APO staff until further written instructions were given.

Others have shared similar experiences of changing APO staff’s instructions and being turned away from the Perth office after standing in line for hours on several different days.