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Passport system backlogged

Our constituents are expressing significant frustration with the process of obtaining a passport in a timely fashion.

Passport Canada is definitely backlogged. Despite an extensive media campaign over the past year warning people of the need to have a passport to travel to the U.S. by plane or ship as of Jan. 23 this year, they waited until the last minute to apply for their passport.

As a result, Passport Canada’s workload has increased by 143 per cent. This means that while in the past, the turn around time to receive a passport was 20 working days, now it is more like 40 to 50 working days. They are processing more than 1,700 passport applications every day. They have hired extra staff, but the training process is five weeks and the benefit of these additional employees is only now starting to kick in.

It is important for everyone to know that Canadians can still drive across to the U.S. with a birth certificate and ID until June 2008. Only those flying or travelling by ship currently have to have a passport to enter the U.S. Many people who travel by car are, however, applying for passports now and that is contributing to the backlog.

Due to the current backlog, it is very difficult for people to get through to the passport office to find out the status of their applications. In the past, the member of Parliament’s office could access that information in emergency situations.

That is no longer a possibility without a signed consent form, tracking number from the shipper (e.g. Canada Post Xpresspost, Purolator etc.) and a travel itinerary showing clearly that they have an imminent departure date. Even then, it is a minimum of five working days before this office receives a response.

The MP’s office cannot track passport applications that were sent through the Kelowna passport service centre. They must go through Kelowna for this. Passport applications sent through the receiving centres in Kelowna and Kamloops are experiencing the same wait times as those sent by Xpresspost.

Individuals can track their own passport application process on line by going to www.pptc.gc.ca/service/contact.

The member of Parliament cannot expedite a passport unless there are exceptional circumstances such as a death or serious illness in the family, travel for national security / deployment, humanitarian grounds, etc.

If you have not allowed 40 to 50 working days from the time your passport was received in Ottawa until your date of departure, you may have no other option but to travel to Surrey and apply for a passport in person.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the MP’s office at 260-5020. We will do our best to give you the information or find out the answers to your questions.

Important Announcement: The U.S. has just announced a 60 day extension on the need for a passport to travel to the U.S. by air or ship.

The new deadline is March 23. You will still need ID, a birth certificate and or a citizenship card. Please note that if you fly out before the deadline, but return after the deadline, you will still need a passport.

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