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'Better bring your own chair': Metro Vancouver man records massive line-up for passport

"6.:30 a.m. in the rain and [people] are already waiting."
He recorded a video of a sprawling line at a Service Canada office located in Surrey's Central City Shopping Centre Friday, November 4, 2022.

While wait times for passports have improved across Metro Vancouver, many locals continue to report long line-ups and difficulty receiving the travel document. 

Metro Vancouverite Han Yang recorded a video of a sprawling line of people waiting in the rain to visit a Service Canada office located in Surrey's Central City Shopping Centre at 6:30 a.m on Friday (Nov. 4). 

"Better bring your own chair and take a day off cuz it’ll be a long wait!" he captioned in a tweet. 

While the line appears daunting, the local man told Vancouver Is Awesome that the long wait continued once people moved past the entrance. 

"There are two more waiting rooms inside that [they are going to] keep you [for] at least two to three [more] hours," he explained, adding that the process "is very embarrassing and sad."

In the spring, passport lineups made headlines across the country, as people camped out overnight to reserve their spots in sprawling queues. Many of them even paid people to wait in line for them, paying up to $800 for the service.

 A Vancouver blogger even went viral after she shared her experience flying to Edmonton to obtain her travel document. 

Canada Passport lines improve but many locals report issues

Andy Anderson, the founder of the crowd-sourced Passport Waiting Time Canada website, says wait times appear to be improving across the country. 

"The overall picture is things are improving," he told V.I.A., noting that the group's figures are slightly inflated by people who have been waiting since early in the year. 

"It seems people that applied in the last two or three months are receiving their passports much quicker."

But while many people are receiving their passports in under a month, others report waiting up to 10 months, Anderson noted.

Daniel Garfinkel wrote in a tweet that he mailed his child's passport application in July and the transfer request was submitted in October. While they are travelling in under a week, the call centre told him he would "hopefully" receive the passport in a couple of days before his travel date. 

Another local man wrote that he waited a whopping six hours for a new passport and then returned a couple of weeks later to pick it up and had to wait multiple hours again.

A Vancouver man also took to Twitter to express his frustration, noting that it took an extremely long time just to speak to someone on the phone. 

One man asked if the online passport renewal app was working because he was unable to use it for days.

In response, Passport Canada said it had "been receiving more requests than usual" and he should keep checking as "time slots may become available."

Service Canada weighs in on Metro Vancouver passport situation 

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) told V.I.A, in a statement that average Service Canada wait times vary during the week but tend to be higher in the morning. 

Vancouver Service Canada Centre – Passport Services (SCC-PS) offices, which include Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond, are "currently able to serve all clients in the queue, and arriving before the office opens at 8:30 a.m. is not necessary," according to the department. 

As the holiday season approaches, however, Service Canada expects an increase in passport applications. Additionally, only 20 per cent of the typical passport volume was received over the first two years of the pandemic. As such, the 2022/2023 forecast for passport volume is now 4.4 million, which is a staggering two million higher than normal. 

"The proportion of applications received by mail has nearly doubled. It is about 40 per cent less efficient to process these applications compared to in-person applications. In addition, a significant segment of all applications currently in the system is for new passports for children and adults. These are more complex and take longer to process than simple renewals," wrote ESDC.

The department added that call volume levels dropped by 93 per cent while wait times dropped by 80 per cent between the week of April 4 and Oct. 17, "with an average wait time of 18 minutes during the week of Oct. 17." 

Additional hiring and training of new staff continue ahead of the holiday season. For all urgent passport applications, Canadians must submit their application to a passport office that offers urgent (by the end of the next business day) or express (two to nine business days) services. Proof of travel is required. 

For non-urgent passport applications, Canadians can submit their application at a passport office, a Service Canada Centre offering the 10-day pick-up service, a regular Service Canada Centre (20 business days) or by mail (20 business days). 

Clients who applied for their passport more than 20 business days ago can request a transfer by contacting the Passport Program, or by visiting a passport office or a Service Canada Centre. Proof of travel is not required for applications outside of service standards.

For additional information,  consult the Improving Passport Processing webpage and the Find a passport service location near you webpage.