Since travel was permitted abroad, lineups at the passport offices across Canada, including Victoria, have seen significant delays and wait times.
According to the federal government, 72% of Canadians who apply for a passport in any manner will get it within 40 business days, while 96% of people who submit their application in person will get their passport within 10 business days.
Due to the backlog, the Canadian government has introduced a new feature to check wait times at passport offices across the country online.
By 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the reported wait time at downtown Victoria’s Bay Centre was already five hours. Over in Vancouver, the wait time was estimated at six hours and 45 minutes.
The wait time is updated three times a day.
According to the government, the demand has been unprecedented.
To put it in perspective, in the year ending March 31, 2021, Service Canada issued just 363,000 passports. So far this year, up until March 31, 2022, that number surged to 1,273,000, nearly a million of which were issued in the final seven months.
Service Canada said staffing levels at all locations have returned to pre-pandemic in-person service capacity, and measures have been brought in to combat the long wait times this spring as the skeleton-staffed offices dealt with a deluge of people trying to renew their passports that expired during the pandemic.
600 new employees have been hired to help process applications and it has opened more counters at 317 centres, opened new centres, and created new workload management and processing technology.
The wait time check feature is highlighted with a blue “new” sticker on the government’s website.