Thursday,  June 30, 2022  6:00 pm

Ottawa eases passport delays with reopened offices, new hires, reservation system

  • Buzz
  •   05-18-2022  7:10 am
  •   Pax Global Media

Ottawa eases passport delays with reopened offices, new hires, reservation system
The demand for new or renewed passports is growing in Canada. (File photo)
Pax Global Media

Interest in travel is growing among Canadians and so is the demand for new or renewed passports.

As mainstream media reports have indicated, wait times to renew passports have soared to frustrating levels as the pent-up demand for travel takes hold, resulting in would-be travellers standing in lines for hours and hours – with some even taking to camping out on the street in front of Service Canada offices to secure their spot. 

As travel restrictions ease, and to get new passports into the hands of Canadians quicker, the Government of Canada, on Tuesday (May 17), unveiled additional steps to improve the process.

Offices reopened

For starters, Service Canada has announced the reopening of all passport service counters across the country.

Reopening measures were implemented the week of May 9 following a brief trial period.

This marks a return to pre-pandemic in-person service capacity, with a 40 per cent increase in capacity at service counters, the federal department said in a news release yesterday.

Capacity in waiting rooms has also been expanded, the department says. 

Streamlined operations, new hires

A number of measures have also been put in place to streamline passport services.

Service Canada says it has hired 600 new employees specifically to support the processing of passport applications, opened more dedicated passport intake counters in over 300 Service Canada Centres, opened additional processing hubs, and created a new workload management and processing technology to increase efficiency.

“Service Canada continues to hire and train more employees, and teams at the passport office, processing and call centres are working overtime every day and on weekends to increase processing capacity,” the department said.

This also includes opening select Service Canada Centres on Saturdays for passport service.

Keep it simple

A simplified renewal process now allows applicants to renew an expired passport if it was issued in the last 15 years.

This process is also now available to those who had their passport lost, stolen or damaged, Service Canada says.

READ MORE: Ottawa simplifies passport renewal process amid high demand

Applicants do not need to have a guarantor or provide their original documents, such as proof of citizenship or photo identification.

All they need is two photos, two references, their completed form and the applicable fees.

Appointment-booking tool

Service Canada has also launched, an online appointment-booking tool that applicants can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The tool also directs them to the right location to submit their passport applications.

Since April 1, 2022, Service Canada has issued 210,219 passports. (Pax Global Media)

At the same time, Service Canada recognizes that some circumstances cannot wait for an appointment.

This includes:

  • Anyone who needs a passport within two business days must visit one of the specialized passport sites (Service Canada Centres – Passport Service) offering urgent pick-up service. Proof of travel is required.
  • Those travelling within 25 business days can use the walk-in service at one of the 35 specialized passport sites (Service Canada Centres – Passport Service). Appointments are recommended, and proof of travel is required. Wait times at these sites may be long due to the current demand.
  • For anyone travelling in more than 25 days (or with no specific travel date), more than 300 Service Canada Centres are available to receive passport applications in person. No proof of travel is needed. These applicants also have the option to mail in their applications.

While processing times are currently longer than pre-pandemic times, 98 per cent of Canadians who apply in-person at a specialized passport office “currently receive their passports in less than 10 business days,” Service Canada says.

Give yourself time

In March and April 2022, Service Canada received approximately 500,000 applications for passports and is prioritizing those with more imminent travel.

Canadians who need their passport to be renewed, Service Canada says they “should apply well before they book their trip to ensure it can be delivered in time.”

The demand for passports is much higher this year compared to 2021 when border restrictions and coronavirus fears slowed cross-border activity. 

In April 2021, approximately 69,000 applications were received, compared to 261,000 applications in April 2022.

Since April 1, 2022, Service Canada has issued 210,219 passports and the department expects to receive 4.2 million passport applications during the 2022–23 fiscal year.

“Service Canada and its employees work hard to deliver the services Canadians need, where and when they need them. We do this by planning for surges in demand, adapting our processes where and when we can, and taking advantage of technology to streamline our processing and intake,” said Lori MacDonald, senior associate deputy minister of employment and social development and chief operating officer for Service Canada, in a statement yesterday. 

“Our teams are currently responding to a significant surge in demand for passports, working hard to maintain our service standards and get Canadians the documents they need to travel.”

“We thank Canadians for their patience during this time, and continue to encourage them to plan ahead and apply early if they need passport services.”

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