Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm EDT

The federal government is adding new passport service locations in Canada as the application processing backlog continues.

Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centers in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivières, Quebec and Charlottetown, PEI.

Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travel.

More than a quarter of them had not yet been processed as of the beginning of this month.

Government statistics show that the system is beginning to catch up with demand, as the gap between the number of passport applications each month and the number of passports issued is narrowing.

But there is a long delay.

In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 percent from 81 percent the previous week.

Those numbers aren’t materially better than the headline numbers from late June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to mounting complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.”

The week of June 20, the percentage of passports issued within 40 business days was 76 percent.

Call center wait times have been significantly reduced in the interim and “triage measures” have been implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.

Still, delays persist as walk-ins at most offices are limited and many Canadians wait weeks or months before being able to get an appointment.

Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in the largest urban centers: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, and Quebec City.

Proof of upcoming travel is also required to obtain service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.

As the backlash over wait times continues, some reports suggest that Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers and then canceling their flights once their application is in the queue.

Passports for in-person applications are issued within the 10-day window 95 percent of the time, a standard that has held steady throughout the summer.

Gould said the government was unable to predict how much demand would surge earlier this year and was unprepared for a glut of mail-in applications.

For passport applications submitted by mail, a government website currently anticipates a 13-week wait, plus shipping time.

Starting in late July, people who have waited more than 20 business days to receive an application in the mail and who are traveling within the next 20 business days can visit Service Canada offices to apply for a transfer, increasing the chances that receive your request. processed before they need to go.

In response to demand, Service Canada added five new locations for passport services at the end of July: Brampton and Whitby in Ontario, Pointe-Claire in Quebec, Calgary Sundance in Alberta and Richmond in British Columbia.

The agency also increased staffing levels, reporting 1,936 employees in its passport workforce in early August, up from 1,785 the previous month.

Gould said he is working to bring passport services to an additional nine or 10 offices and hopes to make more announcements soon.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 17, 2022.

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