Oshawa family waiting close to 5 months for renewed passports amid delays

Passport Canada says you should no longer have issues renewing your passport in a timely manner, and despite some now reporting they’ve received their documents in a matter of weeks, others still wait after applying months ago. Shauna Hunt reports.

By Shauna Hunt and Meredith Bond

Delays at a Canadian passport office could prevent an Oshawa family from embarking on a holiday vacation with three generations despite submitting their applications in July.

Mirela Sonley said she went to a passport office on July 14 to renew her children’s passports five months before their planned holiday and was given an expected mailout date of Aug. 12.

Her family was going on a vacation in the United States in October so she said she figured there would be more than enough time to receive the passports.

“She told me that was a lie. It’s a 12-week wait, I was OK with that,” explained Sonley. “And then you know we’re coming up on that [first trip], I call, and they haven’t even been looked at. They said I should have them by Thanksgiving … Thanksgiving came and went — still nothing.”

Thankfully for their October trip, they were able to use birth certificates for their children at the border instead of using passports.

Now, Sonley and her family are set to leave for the holiday vacation in two weeks, but she has yet to receive the documents.

“There are three generations of my family travelling on this trip together and it could very well be the last time my family travels as three generations,” said Sonley.

A Passport Canada spokesperson told CityNews the situation around passport renewals has significantly improved since the COVID-19 pandemic led to a massive processing backlog meant people were lining up for hours at their offices.

Agency staff said back in May, there was a more than a 350 per cent increase in passports processed over the last year as applications surged with many Canadians looking to resume travel following two years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Passport backlog means long lines, change of summer plans for many travellers

Only 20 per cent of the normally anticipated passport volume was received during the first two years of the pandemic. Passport Canada staff said three million Canadians did not renew or apply for a passport during the pandemic.

The total forecast of passport renewals for 2022-2023 is now 4.3 million, two million more than normal. As of Nov. 25, nearly two million passport applications were received and close to 1.75 million have been processed.

Passport Canada staff said since Oct. 3, all passport applications are once again being processed within pre-pandemic service standards.

However, there are still people like Sonley who applied during the height of the backlog and have yet to receive their passports.

“Clients who applied for their passport more than 20 business days ago, can request a transfer… in order to ensure their application is processed in time for their travel,” Passport Canada told CityNews in a statement.

“You know you pay good money for these passports, and you pay good money for your vacations, and I’m baffled,” said Sonley.

Sonley added people travel for different reasons and not being able to access your passport could hold someone’s life “in limbo.”

“[People] travel for business. They travel to visit loved ones some they could very well be seeing for the last time,” said Sonley.

“Then there are those other people that are applying for their passport and they’re getting it within a couple of weeks, and they have no intentions of travelling anytime soon.”

Sonley had her file transferred to a different office in Scarborough a couple weeks ago after repeated inquiries. Along with help from her local MP, she said she was told on Tuesday she could pick the renewed passports up next Monday.

The government said hiring efforts, an increase in efficiency, and the streamlining of processes have led to a record number of passports issued in both August and September and said Service Canada will continue these efforts throughout the busy travel season.

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