It was a slow morning in Cherryhill Village Mall on Tuesday for Londoners looking to renew their passport, with some waiting for hours on end.
With an international trip booked for the end of May, Mandeep Thakur is in a rush to get a passport for her baby.
She spent two hours in line with her baby at the Passport Canada office in Cherryhill before deciding it had been long enough.
“The kids can’t wait two hours or more than that,” Thakur said, adding that she’s been trying to get her baby a passport since last week.
“It’s always too long of a line, so that’s why we are just coming again and again, so we will come again (tomorrow). Hopefully, we’ll get it soon.”
Sandra Hohner arrived in line at around 10:30 a.m. and it wasn’t until 11:30 a.m. that she was told it would be another two hours until she entered the line inside the actual office.
“I know that there’s people that just left now that have been here for about four hours, five hours, so it’s a little nerve-wracking,” Hohner told Global News.
Canadians without imminent travel plans are allowed to renew their passports via mail or by visiting a Service Canada centre, such as the one inside the Dominion Public Building on London’s Richmond Street.
However, if they are travelling internationally within the next 25 business days, they’ll need to renew in person at a specialized Passport Canada office, such as the one in Cherryhill.
“I have been trying to get an appointment for months, and there’s none online, you can’t get through to anyone on the calls, nothing. So, I had to wait within the (25 business days) to just be able to walk in and get it,” Hohner said.
Hohner says she’s read stories of people in her situation paying someone else to wait in line for them and admits she’s considered paying for such a service herself.
“To wait here all day is long, I had to book today off and everything, so I did weigh that as an option for sure.”
Tom Ireland, who has an upcoming work trip, managed to find passport renewal success on Tuesday after arriving 30 minutes before the office opened and waiting three and a half hours.
“I kind of expected it to be worse, I heard there were six-hour lines last week, so it wasn’t too bad,” Ireland said.
“The anxiety’s definitely gone.”
In an email to Global News, Service Canada says “an increase in demand for passport services has resulted in lineups and longer wait times for service,” adding that the increase came amid the “easing of restrictions and the resumption of travel.”
According to the federal agency, Service Canada issued 363,000 passports between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.
Between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, that number shot up to more than 1.27 million, with more than 960,000 of those passports issued between Sept. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.
Since April 1, 2022, more than 176,700 passports have been issued and Service Canada estimates it received nearly 500,000 applications during March and April of this year.
“Although processing times are currently longer than prior to the pandemic, 85 per cent of Canadians who apply for passports currently receive their passports within 40 business days. 97 per cent who apply In-Person at a specialized passport office, currently receive their passports under 10 business days,” wrote Employment and Social Development Canada spokesperson Marie Terrien.
Terrien says the federal government has also expanded its simplified renewal process, which can be used for expired passports that were issued within the last 15 years.
Under this process, applicants don’t need to have a guarantor or provide their original documents, such as proof of citizenship or photo identification. Instead, they only need two photos, two references, their completed application form and payment for any applicable fees.
Terrien adds that 500 new employees were hired by Service Canada to specifically support the processing of passport applications.
“Service Canada continues to hire and train more passport officers and teams are working overtime every day and on weekends to increase processing capacity,” Terrien said.