By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Passport offices are still dealing with a surge of applications, the minister responsible says, and wait times are “far from acceptable.”
Karina Gould says those long wait times are her top priority, but she cannot say when things may return to normal.
The federal government says 72 per cent of Canadians who apply for a passport in any manner will get it within 40 business days, while 96 per cent of people who submit their application in person will get their passport within 10 business days.
The government’s website now includes estimated wait times for visits to passport offices, updated three times a day, to help people plan.
On Monday afternoon you could expect to wait four hours and 45 minutes at the Ottawa location, three hours in Toronto, and six hours and 45 minutes in Vancouver.
Gould says her department is considering further changes, including moving the application process online.
She also says her department is working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to determine if there’s a way to issue passports to people as they get their citizenship instead of requiring a separate application. Both examples will take time to implement.
There are typically between two million and five million passport applications per year in Canada. During the pandemic, only about 1.5 million passports were issued over two years.
As a result, passport staff were given other work during that time and Service Canada is now trying to shift that work elsewhere.
And while Gould says 2022 is on track to be at the high end of the typical range, close to five million, “we’ve typically been able to manage that volume throughout the year but we’re seeing the surge happening all at the same time, which of course is leading to long lineups.”
Australia’s passport processing times are six weeks, according to Gould, while it takes 10 weeks to get a passport in the United Kingdom and 11 weeks to get one in the United States.