Wait times for passport applications appear to be easing in Montreal

Click to play video: 'Montreal travellers needing passport renewals no longer face massive lineups'
Montreal travellers needing passport renewals no longer face massive lineups
WATCH: There is some relief for travellers needing new passports. Processing times are returning to normal after a summer where people waited in lines around the block for hours. As Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports, it comes just in time for the busy holiday travel season. – Nov 24, 2022

James Goussanou left a Ville Saint-Laurent passport office with a new Canadian passport in hand and a smile on his face.

“I’m very excited, I’m going to the Ivory Coast for three weeks,” Goussanou said, adding he was overdue for a much-needed vacation.

Goussanou was initially hoping to travel this summer. But when he went to renew his passport at a Ville Saint-Laurent Service Canada outlet, he was met by a lineup that snaked around the block, with hundreds of people waiting.

“It was pretty bad, so I just shifted my travel plans,” he said.

This week, he dropped off his passport application on a Monday morning at an empty passport office in Ville Saint-Laurent. He said he waited about half an hour to meet with an agent and process his application. He paid $50 extra for an express service and was able to collect his passport three days later.

“It literally took inside like 20 minutes to have it done,” Goussanou said. “It was good.”

Read more: Hundreds wait outside passport offices in Montreal as Service Canada deals with major backlog

A Global News reporter visited passport offices at the downtown Guy-Favreau federal building and at the Ville Saint-Laurent Service Canada office Thursday morning, and the lineups for passport applications were short at both locations. Individuals applying for passports told the reporter they were waiting less than an hour without an appointment to submit an application.

It’s a relief for travellers who were dismayed at astonishingly long lineups for passport applications this summer. Some people even camped overnight to get a passport. Others complained they waited months to get passports returned after mailed-in applications.

On its website, the government of Canada states in an emergency, you can get a passport back in 24 hours. Standard applications by mail or in person at a Service Canada outlet will generally take 10 to 20 business days to process.

Read more: Canadian passport delays are frustrating travellers. What’s the fix?

It comes at a time when travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Aéroports de Montréal spokesman Eric Forest told Global News that Trudeau Airport is expecting to receive approximately the same number of passengers as in December, 2019, which amounted to more than 1.5 million passengers.

The airport warns that passengers should arrive at least three hours before their flight departs because of high volumes expected during the holiday season.

Travel agent Katherine Velan says her clients are relieved getting a passport is now much easier, and so is travelling with the easing of COVID-related travel restrictions.

“COVID and the passports were in a category together, and it’s a huge relief because it’s no longer an issue,” said Velan, a travel agent with Direct Travel.

Velan says she’s as busy now as she was pre-pandemic.

“All those missed holidays like anniversaries, birthdays, all those things, people are saying they will pay whatever, they just want to get away,” Velan said. “Those 55th birthdays that didn’t happen, they are now celebrating their 58th.”

But Velan warns that because demand for travel is so high, prices are going up, and flights are hard to find.

“If you are travelling at Christmas this year, you are paying double or triple,” she said. “The issue we have is finding space. I can find hotel space, but I can’t find flight space. That is where you run into problems, and the prices are expensive.”

In an email to Global News, Service Canada confirmed that wait times for passports had decreased by 81 per cent over the last seven months, while the volume of passports issued was back to pre-pandemic levels.

The federal agency says its hiring efforts and the streamlining of certain processes helped increase efficiency.

Prioritizing passports for those with travel plans was well as implementing triage measures in some metropolitain areas were only some of the measures put in place to help clear the backlog.

Service Canada says it also made it easier for those with expired passports (up to 15 years) to get a new one by processing them as renewals rather than new applications.

“As a result, in-person services are more reflective of a pre-COVID-19 experience, where lineups are manageable and passports are delivered within our service standards,” wrote spokesperson Maja Stefanovska.

An increase in holiday travel isn’t expected to change that, Stefanovska added.

“As the holiday season approaches, we will continue to increase workforce capacity in order to maintain our service standards.”

— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier

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