Chaos & Disarray. The Process of Obtaining a Canadian Passport.

A mere 20 hours before take off my daughter’s passport was ready for pickup.

As a new parent, traveling with a baby is stressful enough- this passport situation just added to the chaos!

If you are trying to obtain a passport in Canada here is a recap of our experience. I wanted to write this to rant (a little) but also offer someone else in this situation some advice as I could not find any type of support/guidance online.

My family and I first started talking about the idea of traveling in March 2022. By April 1st I had my daughters passport application in the mail! I called Passport Canada to verify the process. Confirming that the mail was the best route to go. They confirmed it was… at the time.

This was our first family trip, our baby’s first passport and we were planning on traveling mid June! We had tons of time, right? Wrong!

The week after I submitted the application the news started pouring out about how overwhelmed Passport Canada has become. I thought oh no… so I reassured myself that our timelines should still work even with the biggest delays.

Technically you should apply for your passport by mail and get your passport returned by mail within 60 business days, latest. Our government run system did not even come close to meeting these standards.

By mid May I started feeling a little concerned as our trip was approaching (take off June 17th) and still I had no word from Passport Canada.

I decided to check our visa to see if we had been charged for passport processing! Yippee, charge went through on May 14th! It had to be coming soon.

Another two weeks pass and our trip is 17 days away. This is when I started calling Passport Canada. If you are also in this boat, here is the number: 1 800 567 6868.

My first call kept going to an automatic message, basically saying try again later. I thought, that’s weird! How could this line be filled all day long. Same thing happened again the next day.

The following day I decided I would call at exactly 8:30 AM. I was rapidly phoning again and again to make sure my call was accepted the minute they opened. Phew, I got through! Only to be 112th in line to talk to an agent! I kid you not, if you called at 8:32 you would be getting that automatic message saying call again later. My point is, if you do not get through in the first minute of opening- try again tomorrow! Brutal.

After an hour I got through to an agent. She told me my daughter’s passport was processed. She could see all the information, the picture, the visa charge. She said all the information is there. Its just not printed.

At this point, I was instructed to have my passport rushed to the closest urgent pick up office. And “hopefully” it will be ready on time. “There are no guarantees, ” she told me. She also instructed me NOT to go to the office. Do NOT wait in line. Wait for the office to call you. Sometimes its only two days before travel. But, if it’s ready they will call you.

So we did. We transferred our file to Hamilton and within two hours someone called me to verify our travel! I thought oh, this is good! That was quick. We have to be getting this printed soon. They also asked for my visa so they could charge me a rush fee ( they never ended up charging us).

Please note, the agents will not transfer your passport to an urgent office if you are outside the urgent window. You’ll need to do this within two weeks of travel.

Another week passes with no update.

I’m now back into my rapid dialling of the passport office at 8:30 AM. The agent on the phone tells me there was an update on Friday, it’s now Monday, but since then nothing else. It “could” be ready this week. Maybe you should go line up in Hamilton.

I’m sure this story sounds confusing- as we were told NOT to line up. But I guess now we are in panic mode and you might as well join the party.

To be clear, in Hamilton there are two passport offices. If you are going to the urgent pick up you’ll need to be at the Upper James location. I was reading about a lot of people mixing up the offices and making their urgent situation even worse!

Now it’s the day before our trip. My husband wakes up at 4 AM and drives to the Upper James location. He arrives at 4:40. There are 30 people in line! We expected him to be the first or second to the building. He chats with people who were waiting in line yesterday. One lady missed the cut off, wasted an entire day, got blasted by the sun and now she was back for round two. She also explained how people were literally falling to the ground waiting in line as the heat was so intense. Paramedics had to arrive on scene.

How is this acceptable?

By 8:30 the line is well wrapped around the building. People are being turned away if you are not traveling within two-four days. You need your plane ticket/booking to prove this. Luckily by 9:30 my husband was able to talk to an agent. They told him simply, “your passport is not ready”. We had a backup plan- we will just apply for a brand new passport! We had the application ready, new pictures, guarantor signed – rejected. Sorry! The current passport was too far into the process to just issue a new one. They explained they would then risk having two passports floating around for the same person.

So my husband left. We are now officially 22 hours before take off and the chances of going on this vacation are looking incredibly slim.

Now I am crying. Trying to cancel the vacation, get some sort of credit, figure out what the airlines will do. And then my phone rings.

The caller ID said CANADA, the location was Hamilton. I answered and the person on the other line said, “your passport is ready for pickup.”

I have no idea how within an hour of my husband being home a miracle struck our passport situation. It was printed and ready for pickup.

The miscommunication during our morning visit … I’ll never understand.

By 12:15 the day before our trip I had Emma’s passport in hand and my faith in a family vacation was restored.

If you get the call to pick up your passport you do not have to wait in the unacceptably long lines. You can go right into the office and tell the security guard you are there for an urgent pickup. The whole process of picking up the document took 30 minutes. Remember to bring your proof of identification!

If you have made it this far you likely are also searching for some passport answers.

The breakdown:

  • Call Passport Canada the second the open at 8:30 AM 1 800 567 6868
  • Ask for a case number and keep that number handy every time you call
  • If you are within two weeks of travel get that passport transferred to an urgent office
  • Get proof of travel ready and have a plan to fax it to the urgent office once they request
  • Call Passport Canada daily leading up to the trip and request updates
  • Keep your phone with you at all times! I hope you get the call

It’s a shame our government could not foresee these issues and have a better plan for the surge in passports. Covid clearly delayed many from renewing their passports and the fact that the ten year passport started in 2012, with many renewals happening in 2022, just added to the mess.

In the end we got the passport and we were able to enjoy a great family vacation. If you are in the same boat I guess “trust their process”. They did call before boarding! However, the anticipation is not pleasant and you are truly robbed of that exciting feeling as you count down the days (or hours) to takeoff.

2 thoughts on “Chaos & Disarray. The Process of Obtaining a Canadian Passport.

  1. you re daughter will never remember this trip.i cant remember anything from when i was 3 or 4 or 5.etc.let alone a toddler.seems like alot of trouble to go through for a parents getaway trip.a little selfish.but to each their own. i guess you can show her the pics in 15 years.but with teens today her head will be buried in her phone.


    1. You are right, she won’t remember the trip however the photos and the bonding time were priceless. It was an amazing time for my husband to be off work bonding with our child, truly uninterrupted ! She also experienced so much on this trip- new foods, started crawling, sandy beach, airplanes. The knowledge and confidence she gained was incredible to see. As a mom I also was able to face some nerves and open up to a new world and schedule it had amazing benefits for both of us. I guess some can look at a family vacation in a negative sense- but really there is so much positivity to be seen. I really hope you can be open to the happier side of things! Consider that next time you write a comment. Take care !


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