Save Time on Passports

This entry is part 4 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Yesterday I made the journey to the Canada Passport office in Kitchener with one of the other team members, Alex Pendergast, so that we could get our passport applications handed in and begin the processing. Ordinarily I wouldn’t post something as mundane as this but we learned something that I think will be beneficial for anyone looking to get their Canada Passport in the next few months and so here’s the post.

Due to a recent U.S. Law entitled the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), Canadians who want to travel to the United States are now required to have their passport (currently only required if traveling into the U.S. by air, but in 2008 will be required for border crossings as well). As a result the passport applications have skyrocketed and the wait time for getting passports has gone up as well. Not only that, but you can expect when going to a passport office to deliver the application in person (which speeds up the actual processing time vs. mailing in the application), that there will be a long waiting line for that as well.

However, there is an easier way to go about doing things – as Alex and I recently discovered (and no it has nothing to do with anything illegal!). When Alex went to get his passport photo taken at our local travel agency a couple weeks ago, the person taking his photo happened to mention that a relative of his filled out his passport application online and his subsequent trip to the passport office was quick compared to regular paper applications. As a result, Alex and I decided to fill out our passport applications online and go that route.

Well let’s just say, we were glad we did. We arrived around 11:00am at the Passport Office in Kitchener, Ont. When we travelled in the elevator there were a few other people with us with paper passport applications. Upon arriving at the office the place was packed with people – not only was there lineups for getting the applications processed but also a lineup for getting a number to get in line! Needless to say we weren’t looking forward to the wait. Then, one of the passport officers yelled out, “People will Online Applications follow me” and we were directed to a special line for those with applications that had been prepared online. We got our numbers, and went to wait. Within 15-20 minutes we were back in our car headed home. Yes, that’s right – 15-20 minutes!

Further, while we werewaiting Alex happened to run into someone he knew who had been waiting (paper application) since the office opened that morning. She had number A58, and they were only up to A35 when we were there. When we left they just changed to A36. Not only that, but the people who were on the elevator with us? They had numbers beginning at A126! They certainly were in for a long wait! We had numbers C345, and C346 respectively which is the queue for online applications – so you can see there were a large number processed already that day.

Bottom line, if you are applying for a Canada Passport any time soon – do it online. It’s as simple as pie. I’ll help with a brief outline of what to do.

1. Go to the government passport website at http://www.ppt.gc.ca/index.aspx?lang=e

2. Follow the links to the “online passport application” section. If you don’t have an E-pass you’ll have to register for one. (HINT: Do all of this on off-peak hours [really early in the morning, or late at night] or you may have difficulty finishing the process due to high volume load on the government servers [they don’t have super-hampsters running their servers of course…])

3. If you have an E-Pass you can login and start the application process (can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes depending on your typing speed and whether you’ve got all your necessary information handy). The instructions are fairly straightforward – follow them and fill out the application.

4. When done filling everything out you can then print the form. VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you follow their print instructions to the tee, as they will be picky about that. If you have a crappy printer consider saving your application and printing it off on an office printer, or a friends printer if they are better. Most standard printers should do the job just fine though.

5. Get the necessary signatures and then you’re all done. Make sure you take the printed out application, all your necessary ID and documents, and your passport photos to the closest Passport Office to where you live and you’ll be all set.

Well, hopefully that helps some of you save some time when going through the passport process. Of course as more people catch on to the online applications that the government of Canada has made available the lineups for that will pick up a bit – but they’ll still go faster due to the decreased time a clerk has to enter the information.

One more caveat – at this point online passport applications can only be filled out by adults 16 and older and is only available for Canadians living in Canada. Still, for the majority of you that will greatly help – and for the rest, maybe the wait won’t be so long when more people apply online!

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