Fewer passport applications, more waiting

Thousands of Canadians still spend the night outside passport offices, frustrated by the endless delays in obtaining their travel documents. However, Service Canada processed a much higher volume of inquiries prior to the pandemic and this with fewer staff confirms the data consulted The press.

Posted at 12:00 p.m

William Theriault

William Theriault
The press

Between 2013 and 2018, Service Canada issued an average of 4.97 million “travel documents,” nearly all passports. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) narrates The press Expect 3.6 to 4.3 million applications in 2022-2023.

The federal government therefore expects 13 to 28% fewer inquiries in 2022-2023 than in the years before the pandemic.

Another important fact: Before COVID-19 spread across the country, Service Canada had 1,500 employees specifically tasked with processing passport applications. ESDC confirms that not only has it contracted all of these employees during the pandemic, but it has also hired 600 new employees for the task. The recruits are currently at different stages of their training.

Despite these additions at the Guy Favreau complex in downtown Montreal, many travelers planning ahead are being told to return and collect their passports within 48 hours of their flight departure after waiting hours. The reason ? Service Canada identifies an “increased processing time across the country” and says to “prioritize those whose travel is imminent.”

In purely mathematical terms, Service Canada has to process fewer applications over the course of the year and has several hundred additional employees. And yet many citizens have recently denounced the slowness of the passport renewal system.

In response to those complaints, the federal government says it is simply overwhelmed by the simultaneous requests from “Canadians who would normally have applied for passports in the two years leading up to the pandemic.”

“Although we had anticipated an increase in volume, this massive increase in demand in the mail far exceeded IRCC forecasts. [Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada] and exceeded the capacity to process requests,” ESDC explained.

Massive traffic jams

In the worst case of the pandemic, “planning for passport renewal was not a priority” for the population, ESDC explains. In fact, only 20% of the expected applicants have taken the necessary steps to renew their official documents.

So many people whose passports expired during the border closure are suddenly clogging the system. More than 650,000 applications were submitted to Service Canada between March and May. “Much of this volume arrives at the same time rather than spread out over the year,” adds ESDC. […] The Passport program must handle the return of all these customers as well as regular annual volumes. »

In order to counteract this extreme overload, “teams in passport offices, processing centers and call centers work overtime every day and at weekends,” the federal government points out The press. The latter also expressed a desire to make 600 additional hires and reassign 600 current federal employees to passport issuance.

“Canadians should check their passport validity well in advance of booking their trip,” recommends ESDC.

If they need a passport or need to renew an existing passport, [les Canadiens] must apply well in advance of booking their trip in order to receive their passport on time.

Employment and Social Development Canada

The federal government is reacting to this The press, also defended against undue delays faced by citizens. “75% of Canadians who apply for a passport currently receive their passport within 40 business days,” he says. If the application in question is submitted in person to a specialized body, 96% of applicants receive the document “within 10 working days”.

“Frustrating situations have arisen at Service Canada Centers as staff deal with the increasing number of inquiries,” concludes ESDC. We do whatever is necessary to ensure Canadians receive the service to which they are entitled. »

In collaboration with Simon-Olivier Lorange, The press

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  • 64%
    Percentage of Canadians who currently hold a valid passport. This corresponds to 24.6 million people out of a population of 38.4 million.


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