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Many Canadians are reporting lengthy delays and wait times at passport offices as the federal government works to process almost a million more applications over the past year.
After issuing only 363,000 passports between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees Service Canada, says this rose to nearly 1.3 million over the following year.
The government said Service Canada is also dealing with tens of thousands more calls, with more than 200,000 received daily up from about 5,000 prior to the pandemic.
CTVNews.ca asked Canadians to share how the processing delays have impacted them and their travel plans. The responses were emailed to CTVNews.ca and have not all been independently verified.
Among the responses from people across the country, many reported that they had to cancel or reschedule their vacations amid the long wait times.
As of Friday, many of those who reached out to CTVNews.ca have yet to receive their passports, despite some applying back in February.
Jonathan Ratcliff of Bella Coola, B.C. says he had to cancel his trip to Europe with friends due to the delays. The 18-year-old says his friends left without him for the trip earlier this month.
“I live 450 kilometres away from the nearest Service Canada Office and have had several failed attempts to contact the passport office on the status of my passport application. All I can do is wait and hope it comes in soon,” he said.
As of Thursday, Ratcliff said he had still not received his passport, “well over two months” since he applied for it.
“I’m worried it might take another month, or maybe even two, to come in. If that is the case, I’ll end up having to completely cancel any plans to meet up with friends,” he said.
Josh Monden says he and his wife were planning to travel to Cuba or Mexico at the end of April, but had to cancel their plans due to the passport processing delays.
Monden said they had an appointment at their local passport office in Peterborough, Ont. and submitted the paperwork along with current passports for renewal. He says the clerk checked over all their information, took payment and submitted the applications.
Monden says it has been 45 business days, as of Thursday, since then and they still have not received their passports.
As their trip was nearing, Monden says they went back to the Service Canada to follow up in-person, but were told to call the toll-free phone number on their receipt.
“Went ahead with calling, waited hours to get through, the call was dropped randomly at times and we had to try again. After finally speaking to someone, all they could tell us was that it’s under review. No further explanation could be given,” he said.
“They said we could pay an extra $110 fee to expedite the process, but there’s no guarantee with that.”
Monden said they will not rebook their trip until the passports arrive, but hopes they do before their Sunwing travel credit expires come January 2023.
GROWING FRUSTRATION OVER DELAYS
Cher Rowe said she already had to cancel a trip to San Francisco for her grandmother’s 80th birthday earlier this year due to the passport delays, and may now have to cancel her upcoming honeymoon.
While her current passport was valid and not set to expire, Rowe wanted to have the documents amended to show her newly married name. She said she didn’t think it would take long for a simple name change request.
“I ha[d] to apply for a renewal which is a full new application just for a name change and, as I couldn’t take time off of work to travel to a service centre, I had to mail in my application along with my current passport and my original birth certificate,” Rowe explained.
She says she currently has “no idea” where any of her documentation is, if it’s been received or if it’s being processed.
Rowe said she switched shifts at her job last Friday to drive 120 kilometres to her closest Service Canada to see if she could get an update in-person. She was turned away and told to call the toll-free number for the national centre.
“The number that they provide is essentially useless – you are met with an automated message saying that the lines are busy. I’m up to 50 calls today alone and will continue trying daily until I get through,” Rowe said.
“I am essentially completely out of options.”
Rowe is supposed to leave for her honeymoon in three weeks, but has yet to receive her new passport. She said she should be excited for this trip, but instead is “extremely stressed.”
Calgary, Alta. resident Wone Yip says he applied for a passport renewal during the first week of March. Yip said his kids were treating him to the Paul McCartney concert in Seattle on May 3.
“My bank statement indicated the fees were processed, so I was hopeful I would get my passport in time,” he explained.
Yip said he called Service Canada “over 200” times up until the day before his flight with no luck and had to cancel the tip. As of last weekend, he still hadn’t received his new passport.
Christine Miner says she and her husband had plans to go to Spain to visit their son this past April. However, their passports did not arrive in time for the trip.
Miner said they applied for our passports on Feb. 21 and they arrived May 4.
“That was way more than the 25 business days for processing,” she said, adding that they’ve rescheduled their trip for June.
Ilnur Haustein says he has spent numerous days on hold with Service Canada and in-person at his local passport office, trying to get answers as to why he has not yet received his new passport after submitting the application back in early March.
Haustein, who lives in Burnaby, B.C., had a flight booked to Kazakhstan on May 7 to visit is mom, who he hasn’t seen in four years, the last two of which were due to pandemic restrictions. He says he had to cancel the trip due to the “government’s unpreparedness.”
“The problem here is not that the passport issuance is being delayed nationwide, but the how the office handles us… They are not transparent, they don’t tell the truth, give false hope, and then… they make it as it’s our fault,” he said.
EXPERT ADVICE ON PASSPORT DELAYS
As eager Canadians look to travel following two years of pandemic restrictions, one expert says long wait times for renewed passports will be the “new normal” for those taking vacations this summer.
Because Canadians were advised to avoid all non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin Firestone, president of Toronto-based travel insurance brokerage Travel Secure, says people were not looking at their passports as often as they had been previously and unknowingly let the documentation expire.
Given the long wait times, Firestone said it is best not to book a trip until you have your renewed passport in hand.
“Even paying doesn’t guarantee you getting an appointment and getting that passport in two days. So that’s added to the list of the new normal we’ll call it,” he previously told CTV’s Your Morning.
If a flight is delayed or cancelled and the reason is within the airline’s control and not safety-related, travellers are entitled to “a specific standard of treatment, compensation, and rebooking or a refund” under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations.
However, if Canadians book an international trip and don’t have their passport by the time of departure, Firestone says they’ll be on the hook for changing their flight.
“There is no insurance in the world that’s going to pay for a cancellation of a trip because you don’t have a passport… so you have to be just prudent and get yourself organized before you travel this year,” he said.