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'Camped overnight': Vancouverites share horror stories trying to get passports

One woman said the wait was so extreme that "every time they take someone in from the line everyone starts applauding."
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Service Canada says Vancouver, B.C. residents looking to fly out of YVR in 2022 may experience long lines for passports. Here are some things to consider.

Scores of Vancouverites are frustrated and stressed out after waiting in lengthy lines at passport offices and having difficulty reaching Passport Canada agents by phone. 

When they finally make it to the airport, many travellers will be faced with more long waits. Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is urging travellers to arrive early at the airport, advising them to allow two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international.

Kathy Will flew out of YVR on May 1 and was thankful she had a Nexus card to get through security as the regular line was really long. 

But the airport experience — even if she'd had to wait considerably longer — was far better than the one she faced getting her passport. 

"[I] had a ridiculously difficult time getting a passport renewed," she writes in an email. "[I made five] trips to the passport office, mailed the application 40 days in advance, [and the] new passport never arrived [so I] camped overnight."

While she acquired her travel document at the "eleventh hour," she notes that several hundred others were not so lucky.

Liz Cochlan was one of the unlucky ones. The local woman started her passport application process in mid-February to visit Australia. Unfortunately, she filled out the wrong forms because she was replacing a lost passport. It took her a staggering six weeks to be notified of the error and have her forms returned. 

"Am I mad? You bet I am," she tells V.I.A. "I have missed my flight to Australia which is leaving later today as I don’t have my passport."

The local woman says Canada's passport website isn't user-friendly and "could be so much easier to read." Additionally, she waited on hold for a whopping three-and-a-half hours at the beginning of April with her first application. 

"When my turn came the employee hung up on me," she recalls. 

Numerous Vancouver residents share passport renewal frustrations 

An Irish man living in Vancouver shared his frustration trying to get his child's passport. He applied in February and called three weeks ago and was told he would have it in a couple of weeks. With less than a month until his travel date, he is growing concerned that they won't receive it and he's unable to get through to an office on the phone. 

A Vancouver woman shared a couple of images on Twitter she snapped at a passport office that show a long line snaking around outside of the entrance. She noted that the office didn't even open until 8:30 a.m. and she toook the photographs at 7:11 a.m.

The ordeal was so outlandish that "every time they take someone in from the line everyone starts applauding," she added. 

After waiting seven-and-a-half hours, the frustrated traveller left after she was informed that there was no chance she'd get in.

Service Canada says it has seen a big boost in demand for passport renewals, which has made for long lineups and longer waits for documents.

The federal agency aims to process passports within 20 business days for mail-in applications, but right now the wait is averaging 26 days.

About 72 per cent of applications are processed on time, but some are taking much longer.

Service Canada processed nearly 1.3 million passports between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022 — a sharp increase from the roughly 360,000 passports processed over the previous fiscal year.

With files from the Canadian Press