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Travelling outside of Canada in 2023? Here’s what you should know about passport renewal

Service Canada announces end of passport backlog, offers tips

3 min read
View of the sky from inside an airplane.
caption Dreaming of flying away to a foreign country? Make sure your passport is up to date.
Natalia Tola

Canadians envisioning a sunny southern vacation or a getaway to Spain should begin thinking about passport applications.

Service Canada warns applicants that seasonal peaks will result in extended waits for passports. The upcoming March break will increase the lineups for passports, plus passports with 10-year validity (issued in 2013) will expire this year.

Passport approval times have improved since the backlogs that were reported last year.

What do I need to know now about passports for Canadian citizens?

Canadians should apply for a passport before booking flights or hotels. The wait time to receive passports will vary on the proximity and urgency of the travel.

The standard wait time for passports is 10-20 business days plus mail time.

Passport program statistics can be found here.

What was the problem? 

The backlog happened in the wake of COVID-19. In the first two years of the pandemic, only 20 per cent of the usual volume of passport applications were received.

Since April 2022, however, once restrictions on travel were eased, demand for passports skyrocketed and Service Canada received more than 542,000 applications.

“As a result, some Canadians seeking passports suffered long lineups and lengthy delays,” stated Karina Gould, the federal minister for Families, Children and Social Development in a Jan. 24 news release.

In major cities like Toronto and Montreal, people were camping overnight and even paying others to hold their spot in the passport line, according to CBC News.

In Halifax, CBC reported delays were “causing daily lineups of 50 to 100 people.”

What’s happening with passport lineups and backlogs? 

The federal government implemented triage systems in metropolitan areas, according to its website, provided systems to prioritize time-sensitive applications, and launched appointment booking systems.

Gould stated Service Canada is now delivering passports within the 10- and 20-day targets 95 per cent and 98 per cent of the time respectively and “the backlog has been virtually eliminated.”

Where do I go in HRM to renew? 

The passport office in Halifax is located in the Trade Centre Office Tower at 1800 Argyle St., Suite 101. Appointments for passports are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Service Canada recommends that those applying for a passport in 2023 should make in-person applications to reduce wait times. This is because applicants have their documents reviewed in person instead of having to mail them and waiting for the documents to be mailed back.

What should I avoid? 

Service Canada warns seasonal peaks can mean longer waits for passports, with March break increasing lineups. Applicants should allow more time.

For those whose passports expire this year, renew early.

Service Canada advises applicants to be very careful with fraud. Information kits claiming to “speed up the process” of getting a passport should be avoided. All passport and other travel document forms are free. Use of unofficial or outdated forms will result in immediate rejection of a passport application.

Any extra tips? 

Shari Tucker, travel agent for the company Love The Way You Travel, offers some quick tips that can save applicants a lot of stress.

“People need to look at the entry requirements for the destination they are visiting to determine how long their passport needs to be valid for. A lot of people think if their passport hasn’t expired, they are good to go. This is definitely not the case,” said Tucker in an e-mail.

Many countries require a three to six month validity on passports. If the travellers’ passport isn’t valid for that amount of time, “You’ll be denied boarding or denied entry into the country. Insurance does not cover this, nor will airlines, tours or cruises refund for this reason,” said Tucker.

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About the author

Natalia Tola

Natalia Tola was born and raised Ecuador. She is pursuing a four year Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) with a minor in Contemporary Studies....

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