A resurging interest in travel has seen the number of Canadian passports issued over the past year more than triple, in some cases resulting in longer wait times, the latest figures from the federal government show.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees Service Canada, said passport applications have increased across the country as public health restrictions have eased and travel has resumed.
Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, Service Canada issued 363,000 passports.
Over the following year, this “increased sharply” to 1,273,000 from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, the spokesperson said.
At the same time, Service Canada has fielded tens of thousands more passport request calls each day, rising to more than 200,000 daily from about 5,000 prior to the pandemic.
“Service Canada recognizes that an increase in demand for passport services has resulted in lineups and longer wait times for service, and we understand the concern this may cause for clients,” the spokesperson said.
“Every Service Canada Centre is required to follow safety protocols to ensure the health and safety of Canadians accessing in-person services. This includes following federally-mandated occupancy limitations. Consequently, walk in clients must wait for service outside the office rather than in our waiting rooms.”
The number of passports issued over the past year is still down from the 2.3 million processed between April 2019 and March 2020.
Meanwhile, Employment and Social Development Canada says it is currently experiencing “very high call volumes,” with wait times longer than usual.
The service standard, or the department’s commitment to process an application in a certain time under normal circumstances, is 10 business days if applying at a specialized passport site and 20 if applying at a Service Canada Centre or by mail.
As of April 18, 2022, the department says the average processing time for passports is five and 25 days, respectively.
Employment and Social Development Canada told CTV News last month that processing times were five and 17 days.
“The Government of Canada recognizes that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians had other things on their minds and planning to renew their passports was not a priority. However, this decrease in passport applications would by necessity result in a higher-than-normal surge at a later date,” the department spokesperson said.
“This is why we worked proactively to expand the simplified renewal process for passports.”
The spokesperson said applicants do not need a guarantor or original documents, such as proof of citizenship or photo ID, under the simplified renewal process, as long as the expired passport was issued within the last 15 years.
Instead, Canadians only need two photos, two references, a completed form and fee payment. This includes those who have had their passport lost, stolen or damaged.
“We encourage Canadians to make sure that they have a passport before making travel commitments,” the spokesperson said.
“To avoid long lines, Canadians with no imminent travel can apply by visiting any of over 300 Service Canada Centres.”
With files from CTV News