Applying for a Canadian Passport
Late last year, it was all over the news how Canadians would now need a passport when traveling by air to the U.S. as of January 23, 2007, as a way of enhancing security at U.S. borders. Before this, Canadians only needed to show either their birth certificates or Citizenship cards. We also watched on the news how long the lines were at passport offices all over Canada.
So when I learned that Reggie’s senior jazz band made it to the Essentially Ellington Competition in New York, I knew we had to get started right away on applying for his passport.
Since I am always very busy and he’s always on the internet anyway, I told him to search on how to apply for a Canadian passport.
He found the Passport Canada website and he started to fill out the application on line. He didn’t finish filling up the application in one sitting but he was able to save his document on line and he would get back to it when he had the chance.
It was the first week of March when he asked me for my maiden name. It was one of the questions asked. I looked at his application just to see how it’s coming along and I checked the information he had typed on there. He was filling up the Adult Passport Application (for Canadians 16 years of age or over). So that was interesting to know that he’s applying as an adult. He needed two references who are not his relatives and have known him for at least two years. He wrote down the names of his band director and a classmate. I told him that maybe scrap the classmate and I’d ask a family friend instead.
He also needed at least one document to support his identity and it must include the bearer’s name and signature. There was a list of documents that could be used, which includes driver’s licence and provincial health care card. Since he doesn’t have a driver’s licence, I thought that he could use my health care card. But upon reading the requirements again, I realized that he is not the bearer of that card and his name is just there because he is my dependent.
So I called the Passport Office the next day, to ask if he could use his Social Insurance Card. As I expected, the line was busy and I was on hold for quite a while. Instead of playing music in the background, the passport office has recorded messages about applying for a passport. And when I heard that it would now take 45 days to process the application, I counted the days until he has to leave and I calculated close to 45 days. I started to get worried. What if he doesn’t get it back before he has to leave?
I finally talked to a representative after 20 minutes and I asked if he could use his SIN card. Yes, he said. I further explained that this is the SIN card I had applied for him when he was still little because he needed one for the college fund I had applied for him and his brothers. Does it have his signature on it, he asked. Not yet, but I will let him sign it. Yes, then he said.
That night, I helped Reggie finish filling up his application. The following day, we had his passport pictures taken at Wal-Mart on his lunch break. While waiting for his turn, I read over the photo requirements. It said there that facial expression must be neutral, not frowning or smiling with the mouth closed. I pointed that out to him. Glasses may be worn as long as the eyes are clearly visible. So I was surprised when the lady photographer asked him to take off his glasses. She also gave him a sheet of tissue to wipe his forehead. For it also said on the requirements that there must not be a flash reflection on the face.
We had to wait for 30 minutes before his pictures were developed. And when she handed it to us, I made sure that it had the photographer’s stamp on the back and a spot for the guarantor’s signature. His school principal had told us that she could sign the students’ passport applications when we had a meeting about their trip to New York. So when Reggie went back to school that afternoon, he brought his application papers and pictures and asked the principal to sign them.
I asked Reggie to skip his first class the following morning just so we could go to the Passport Office and hand in his application. I also told my supervisor that I would be starting work late.
We got there at 7:40 a.m. The doors were still closed as they open at 8:00 a.m. But a guy in uniform came out when he heard us rattling the doorknobs. He asked Reggie if he filled out his application by hand or on the internet. He told him the latter and he was given a number, C505. Apparently, two series of numbers were being given to the applicants, one series for those who filled out theirs by hand and another for those printed from the computer. Reggie was the fifth one on his series. We were told to go to the basement and wait there. The passport guy would come down to get 10 people from each group at 8:00 a.m.
So we went downstairs and there were already about 40 people there. There were only a few chairs and most of the people were sitting on the floor. Reggie also sat on the floor while I remained standing. At 8:00 on the dot, the same guy came down to get the first group of people. And that included us. There were about 7 staff on the counter and when Reggie’s number came up, we handed his papers to a younger guy. He checked his application, birth certificate, SIN card and photos. I paid the $87 fee. I asked when we would be getting his passport. He said by the end of March, that’s about in 20 days time. So I was relieved. It was quick. We were at the bus stop at 8:10 a.m.
I noticed that it’s a lot quicker if you have your application printed on the computer. There are more people filling up their application by hand and that’s the reason they have a longer line. So if you are applying for a passport, I suggest that you have yours printed from the website at www.passportcanada.gc.ca.
We received his passport through Xpress post on the first week of this month. So I am quite relieved now. But I still have to pay the balance of his $2000 trip. The senior jazz band is having a benefit concert next week. So I hope the proceeds from that could help reduce the cost of this trip to New York.