Pierce Schoel thought he might be able to avoid the long wait at the passport office in Kitchener, Ont. Going in the middle of the day.
He was surprised to see the line-up outside the door. The security guard told the people that they would probably wait for two, three hours. But with a long-awaited trip to Mexico on the horizon – his first overseas trip since the pandemic began – he put it on hold.
“I’ve been waiting to travel for a long time,” Shoel said after applying for a passport on Friday. “I’m ready to go back there and start the journey.”
He is not alone. Shoel and his fellow passengers in line could be part of a flood of passport applications for which Canadian officials are prepared.
Tatkal passport services are available during the pandemic, but most people had little use for them due to border closures and public health measures.
Service Canada issued more than 2.3 million passports a year before the pandemic began, but handed out only 363,225 a year after that.
Already the demand is increasing, with 467,541 passports issued till 30 September this year.
The Canadian government still recommends against non-essential travel outside the country because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas and bringing it home.
But as the US border is set to reopen to vaccinated travelers on November 8, the federal government is preparing for a surge 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 receive their passports about 20 days after applying to Service Canada, but some people report they wait longer than a month.
According to Mikaela Harrison, press secretary to the Minister of Family, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussein, the government is closely monitoring the increased demand.
He said in a statement that the government has protocols in place to continue providing passport services to Canadians within service standards.
“I think I gave myself enough time but I’m glad my parents asked me to check when my passport expired, because I honestly didn’t even think about it until then. until he said so,” said Shoel.
According to the global research firm, Tourism Economics, as vaccination rates increase around the world, so will travellers’ confidence.
The firm’s June 2021 Global Travel Services report said, “We look forward to regaining pre-crisis levels by 2024, with international arrivals to follow, with more significant easing of restrictions and travellers’ confidence.” Looking forward to expanding.”
The firm expects international travel to remain about 59 percent below pre-crisis levels, but said significant demand remains.
Meanwhile, the government is reporting higher than average call volumes related to passport applications, and has urged people not to visit Service Canada unless absolutely necessary.
The government has also extended the eligibility period for renewal, so passports expiring on or after February 1, 2019, can be renewed.
This way Canadians can wait to renew their passports until they actually have plans to leave the country.
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