Pile of australian passports
Australians have been banned from leaving their own country since 25 March 2020. Which other countries have similar bans?

With Australia’s international border set to reopen within months – at least for some states and territories – it’s almost time to dust off your passport… and more importantly, check when it expires!

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has warned that the government is expecting a surge in demand for passport applications and renewals when the reopening of Australia’s international border is formally announced. This could lead to long waiting times.

“The department is doing everything it can to prepare but longer than usual processing times can’t be ruled out,” Mr Tehan said.

“Once you’re fully vaccinated, it’s time to dust off your passport and make sure it is still valid.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that Australian passport services are currently operating normally, but notes that the pandemic is causing significant delays to Australia Post delivery services. If there is a sudden surge in passport applications in the coming weeks or months, this will only further delay passport turnaround times.

It normally takes around three weeks for an Australian passport application or renewal to be processed. But at the moment, the processing time is less than two weeks as demand is low.

The cost for a regular 10-year passport is $301, or $152 for a passport with 5 years of validity. (Frequent traveller passports containing more pages were phased out in December 2017.)

Priority processing is available in some cases but costs an extra $220. So if you’re planning to travel overseas soon after the border reopens and your passport has recently expired, you may wish to start the process of renewing your passport now.

Even if your passport hasn’t quite expired yet, bear in mind that some countries require you to have at least six months of validity remaining on your passport from the date you plan to leave that country. So if your passport is expiring in the next 9-12 months and you plan to travel overseas in the foreseeable future, you will need to renew it soon.

Passport applications down 60% last year

With Australia’s international border effectively closed since March 2020, except for a short-lived travel bubble with New Zealand, it’s no surprise that many Aussies have let their passports lapse. This includes some AFF members whose passports have expired in the past 18 months.

In 2020, the number of new Australian passport applications and renewals dropped to 882,622 – down 60% from the 2019 figure of 2,208,767.

If we consider that international travel was banned for 9 months of 2020, and that borders have now been shut for 18 months, that means there could now be more than 2.6 million Australians with lapsed passports. That certainly has the potential to create a surge in demand when borders reopen.

No passport discounts or extensions

The government has continued sending passport renewal notices throughout the pandemic. But it has said it won’t be giving any discounts or free extensions to Australians who couldn’t use their passports for the past 18 months.

Some Australians have called on the Australian government to extend the validity of their passports, given most have been banned from leaving the country since March 2020.

Others point out that the government has also made it extremely difficult for Australian citizens to return home since restrictive arrival caps were implemented in July 2020. In some cases, the Australian government has even banned its own citizens from entering the country under the threat of heavy fines and jail time. This is despite the following text on the inside cover of Australian passports:

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer, an Australian Citizen, to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need.

Inside cover of Australian passport
The inside cover of an Australian passport.

The federal government has said it will allow the resumption of overseas travel once 80% of Australian adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is likely to happen around November or December of this year, but further details are yet to be finalised.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Passport Renewal Notice

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]