Australians have been waiting months to obtain a passport due to staff shortages – and now the delays have been compounded by an even more infuriating problem.
The breakdown of a passport printing machine has been blamed for a large number of hopeful travellers not being issued their crucial identification document in time, the Herald Sun reported.
The publication said hundreds of desperate Victorians lined up outside Melbourne’s Australian Passport Office on Tuesday, with many forced to go home empty-handed.
Among the crowd was one woman who had to miss her overseas flight Tuesday evening because her passport wasn’t ready, according to the publication.
Over the phone, people were told their case could only be escalated one week before they intended to travel and to show up at the office three days before flying if their matter hadn’t been resolved.
Sources and hopeful flyers told the Herald Sun a machine that prints passports was to blame for the delays.
The issue came after a nationwide extended wait time in recent months of at least 12 weeks due to widespread staffing problems.
Travellers are now looking at wait times of at least 14 weeks.
Parents anxious about receiving passports for their children in time for their already booked holidays have shared their angst, with one saying it was “extremely nerve-wracking” and another saying they were “angered” after waiting 15 weeks.
“It’s been so incredibly stressful, we still don’t have our daughter’s passport and we’re travelling overseas on Saturday. We were told about the printing error by a worker at the office on Monday,” one dad told Herald Sun.
A mum claimed the office had lost her daughter’s application so she had to submit another one and pay a $500 priority processing fee to have it ready before flying to Lebanon in a few weeks.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade blamed “intermittent data transfer issues affecting print output” rather than the printer itself.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Dean Long previously warned delays were likely to remain until the end of the year.
“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,” Mr Long told radio station 3AWin June.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had already been struggling to keep up with the 2.4 million Australian passports that expired as of January 2021.
The Sydney passport office alone, which pre-pandemic received between 7000 and 9000 applications a week, is now receiving well over 10,000.
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