About 100 new staff have been recruited by the Department of Internal Affairs, with a further 40 to 50 more expected to join in the coming days to help with the surge in passport applications.
The easing of border restrictions and coming school holidays has seen passport applications increase, with 49,000 still waiting to be processed as of last week.
"The really good news is that we're now issuing more passports out the door than applications coming in," said DIA service delivery and operations deputy chief executive Maria Robertson.
But even with the extra hands, Robertson estimates it would be between six weeks and two months before application wait times can be returned to the usual 10 days.
The standard passports were now taking a month to process with further delays for delivery, and the department hadn't experienced a backlog like this since 1992.
"Last week we received just over 11,000 applications and while that was 13 per cent higher than the week before, we issued about 12,500 passports," Robertson said.
"Each day that we can do that, the backlog comes back a bit so that's really good."
Robertson said besides new staff being recruited, the department also now had an evening and weekend workforce to speed up processing.
About 15 to 20 per cent of new applications were for urgent passport processing - up from the usual 9 to 10 per cent pre-pandemic.
Urgent applications costs double the standard fee at $398 but these were being processed within three days, Robertson said.
"One of the things affecting applications is the quality...we have a very high proportion that are failing on the photo quality with people taking their own photos," she said.
About 30 per cent of the applications were for children's passports, and this would also require reference checks which took longer.
"We have to check through consents to make sure that adult [is] authorised, and we also need to make sure if there aren't any court orders that affect the rights of the consenting adults and limits on the child and where they're allowed to be," she said.
Robertson said that based on latest modelling, with things being so volatile, her cautious estimate was that things would return to normal within two months if the current processing rates continued.
"But I think the biggest issue is that people understand the timeframes to work to," she said.
"That is well publicised at the moment."