Canada’s passport backlog nearly eliminated but a few remain unprocessed from summer

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Published January 25, 2023 at 9:13 am

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A backlog of passport applications has been “virtually” eliminated but there are still complaints of extended waits.

After Canada lifted travel restrictions last April, people flocked to Service Canada Centres seeking passports. People waited for hours — the Mississauga Service Canada Centre location at Central Parkway Mall had a line wrap around the entire mall.

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People resorted to lining up at midnight for a chance to be first when the centre opened in the morning.

There are still reports of backlogs — earlier this month, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said he met a man, Mustafa, who missed his wedding in Cuba because of passport backlogs. However, some have questioned this story. Despite calls to find Mustafa, no one has come forward.

But several people have complained they haven’t received their passports since applying in the summer.

“Been waiting since the middle of August, 5 months now and still no passport,” one person wrote on Twitter. “I’ve tried calling, & through my MP and I just keep being told it’s in process, while everyone around me is applying and getting their passports in 2-4 weeks. I am being held hostage!”

In an announcement yesterday (Jan. 24), the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould, acknowledged the delays.

“Over the past year, Canadians have faced difficult and stressful circumstances as there have been delays in passport delivery,” Gould said in a press release. “We appreciate the patience that Canadians have shown over recent months while Service Canada worked hard to eliminate the backlog and to return to meeting our service standards.”

Gould added that passport processing times have returned to pre-pandemic performance targets.

And Service Canada says only a “small number of older applications remain within Service Canada’s active workload inventory.”

Since the peak in August 2022, approximately 98 per cent of applications have been processed and the backlog has been virtually eliminated, a spokesperson for Service Canada tells insauga.com.

Those applications remaining unprocessed are complex files and Service Canada is working “diligently to complete the review and identify the appropriate outcome and ensure passport integrity,” the spokesperson said.

The backlog was blamed on the changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But over the past 10 months, Service Canada made several changes including increasing the passport operational workforce to over 2,600. Because of additional staffing, increased over time, and improved efficiency, Service Canada is exceeding the 10-day and 20-day standards, respectively achieving a 95 per cent and 98 per cent rate.

Passport program statistics are published online and all data is updated weekly.

There is now a simplified process to replace expired passports (up to 15 years) as renewals rather than new applications.

They expanded passport services at 13 Service Canada Centres in communities where Canadians did not have easy access to passport services. These offices are now offering 10-day passport services.

Service Canada expanded the delivery of passport services to scheduled outreach sites to help meet the passport needs of rural and remote communities.

And in some locations, Service Canada has also adapted hours of service for clients who cannot be accommodated during regular hours.

People can choose to visit a passport office or a mail-in option.

The service standard for an in-person application at a specialized passport office is 10 business days, and 20 business days for mail-in applications and applications made at a Service Canada Centre.

Walk-in is still an option for people visiting an office but Service Canada recommends people book an appointment to make sure they get service that day.

People still experiencing delays who applied for their passport more than 20 business days ago, can request a transfer by contacting the Passport Program, or visit a passport office or a Service Canada Centre to ensure their application is processed in time for their travel.

For additional information, see the Improving Passport Processing webpage and the find a passport service location near you webpage.

Passport applications are expected to increase as the first 10-year passports will expire this year.

“We stand ready to meet the anticipated growth that we are expecting for the first set of 10-year passports that were issued in 2013,” Gould.

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