Canadian Passport Woes

August 17, 2007


It was July 23, 2007 and my trip to the United States was looming with travel scheduled for the morning of August 9, 2007.  The airfare was paid for, hotel booked and meetings set up.  One problem, I had not yet received my passport.


Now the first thing you are going to ask is:  why didn’t I apply earlier?


My application was hand-delivered on April 27, 2007.  When I dropped it off I was interviewed by a passport officer who verified that the application was complete and error-free.  He asked me for the date I was traveling and I answered honestly – August 9, 2007.


Unknowingly I had made one big mistake.  I had dropped the application at a “government services office”, not at a passport office which I believed I was doing.  I was told that to mail the application would delay the application significantly, so I looked up offices on the Canadian government website where I could submit the application in person.  All was well, or so I thought.


For those that don’t know the United States of America now requires a valid passport of Canadians entering the U.S.A by air. This passport must be produced before boarding the plane or they will not allow you to board.  This rule is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requirements resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The intent is to increase border security.  It should be noted that contrary to the myth being propagated on the internet and elsewhere, it is a fact that the 9/11 terrorists did NOT enter the United States via Canada.  Ironically Americans do not need a passport to enter Canada, however, they do need one to re-enter their own country!  The line-ups and waiting times for Americans to obtain passports are so bad that they have now relaxed that requirement and will accept the passport application confirmation in lieu of the actual passport.


Back to my passport story here in Canada.  On July 23, 2007 with my trip looming and still no passport (almost four months have now elapsed), I decided to telephone the government’s 1-800 number to find out the status of my application.  I was told “no action” had been taken on my application.  Explaining my situation, I was told the application would be rushed and to call back later in the week.  Phoning back a couple of days later on July 26, 2007 I was told the application was “in production”.  Again I was advised to call back.  Finally on August 2, 2007 I was told the passport had been mailed and the agent gave me the tracking number.  They mail them Canada Post Xpresspost which is basically courier mail and normally takes 1-2 business days across Canada.


I went to the Canada Post website and using the tracking number found out it had been mailed from Ottawa, Ontario the morning before and was now in Winnipeg, Manitoba where it was “being sorted”.  This was at about 6:00 a.m. local Calgary time (I start work at that ungodly hour).  So a couple of hours later, at around 10:30 a.m. local time, I checked again and found out it was in Calgary.  The status said “out for delivery”.


Sure enough around 1:00 p.m my wife called me and told me it had been delivered.  Finally I had a passport.  Elapsed time over four months and well over 60 working days.  The government claims that getting a passport can take around 50 working days.


There is a moral to my story.  Make sure if you are submitting the application in person that it is actually a “passport office”.  Second make sure you give them a travel date about a month before you are actually traveling.  Am I telling your to lie?  You bet.  If I had not phoned I believe I would not have received my passport in time to travel.  Next time I will definitely give them an date much earlier than my actual travel time.  Sorry government people, but living with the poor turnaround times is unacceptable.

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