Toronto Star

Officials brace for surge in passport renewals as borders reopen


Schoel thought he might be able to avoid a long wait at the passport office in Kitchener, Ont., by going in the middle of the day.

He was surprised to discover lineups out the door. The security guard told people they’d be waiting two, even three hours. But with a long-awaited trip to Mexico on the horizon — his first overseas trip since the pandemic began — he stuck it out.

“I’ve been waiting to travel for quite a long time,” Schoel said after applying for his passport Friday. “I’m ready to get back out there and start travelling.”

He’s not the only one. Schoel and his fellow travellers in line may be part of the deluge of passport applicatio­ns Canadian officials are braced for.

Urgent passport services have been available throughout the pandemic, but with borders closed and public health measures in place most people had little use for them.

Service Canada issued more than 2.3-million passports the year before the pandemic, but handed out only 363,225 the year after that. Already demand is climbing, with 467,541 passports issued this year.

The Canadian government still recommends against nonessenti­al travel outside of the country because of the risk of contractin­g COVID-19 abroad and bringing it home.

But with the U.S. border set to reopen to vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8, the federal government is preparing for a rise in demand for passport services.

“As travel restrictio­ns are lifted, Service Canada is preparing for an increase in demand for passport services,” read a statement from Employment and Social Developmen­t Canada.

The department’s website said people can expect to get their passports about 20 days after they apply at Service Canada, but some people report waits of just over a month.

“I am happy that my parents told me to check when my passport expired, because I honestly didn’t even think about it until they said so,” said Schoel.

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