Canadians report lengthy passport processing as interest in travel rebounds

With only days left before her trip, and without her son’s passport, Ottawa traveller Dianna Chepita wondered if it was even worth it to travel.

“We were not excited about this trip at all,” Chepita told CTV National News. “For the last week or so, I just couldn’t bring myself to be excited. Preparing, yes, but no excitement.”

Chepita had begun the process of renewing her children’s passports back in February, sending the applications by mail, and only received her son’s on Wednesday.

“And our trip is on Saturday,” she said.

Her experience will sound familiar to many Canadians, some of whom have reported waiting in long lines at passport offices as the federal government deals with a resurgence in applications.

After issuing only 363,000 passports between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees Service Canada, says this rose to nearly 1.3 million over the following year.

Service Canada also is dealing with tens of thousands more calls, with more than 200,000 received daily up from about 5,000 prior to the pandemic.

The high call volumes come as provinces and territories have loosened many of their pandemic restrictions in recent months. The federal government also eased more border measures as of Monday.

As of April 18, Employment and Social Development Canada said the average processing time for passports was five business days if applying at a specialized passport site and 25 if applying at a Service Canada Centre or by mail.

After many calls, and a visit to a passport office less than a week before her trip, Chepita says she believes her persistence helped her get her son’s passport in the end.

“I feel very fortunate to have it and I’m also very grateful that my instincts told me to just keep advocating for myself and my son, and not really trust the process but fight for it,” she said.

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