Passport problems: renewal and registration delays frustrating Canadians

A rise in demand for passport services is leading to a backlog nationwide and a headache for many international travellers. 

Some Canadians say their passport applications and approvals took multiple months to complete. They accuse Service Canada delays of forcing them to change their itineraries or cancel flights altogether. 

“I mailed my application in in early February,” Calgarian Jenneice Larsen told CTV News. “But I didn’t hear anything, didn’t get anything in the mail. So by not this last Monday, but the Monday prior, I called them. It hadn’t been processed yet.”

Service Canada did not respond to a CTV News inquiry. 

Online, it’s partially blaming COVID-19 for the delays. 

New measures are in place to distance employees and keep customers and staff safe. There’s also an influx of people looking to leave the country now that travel restrictions are being lifted. 

Combined, the two factors are likely pushing non-urgent applications further down the line. 

“We’re experiencing very high call volumes right now,” the Service Canada website reads. “If you do not have travel plans in the next two weeks, we suggest you wait to call us.”

Larsen was one of about a dozen people in line at the Service Canada offices in the Harry Hays building on Thursday. 

One Red Deer woman says she waited in the line for “hours” before being told she needed to schedule another appointment and drive back to Calgary before she could receive her passport. 

She believed she had already exhausted her options online and over the phone.

Larsen — comparatively speaking — had an easy time. 

In total, she says she waited fewer than four hours on hold with the company before they asked her to go to the downtown office to collect her documents. 

The call was answered just in time — but approval cost an expediting fee of $150. 

“I’m travelling down to Texas because I have to settle an estate for my dad, so (I had) really heightened anxiousness just due to my scenario,” she said. “I was getting a little nervous, flying out tomorrow at 6 a.m.” 

Some requesting an appointment aren’t hearing back from Service Canada at all. 

That’s leading to customers showing up to in-person offices, only to be turned away after lengthy waits because they don’t have a scheduled appointment. 

“Five years ago, I would walk down here during my lunch, wait in line, (and) get it processed,” Larsen said.

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