Canada Passport

A standard Canadian passport is valid for five years, but you’re supposed to have at least six months left on your passport when you are traveling abroad. In effect, you only have about four and a half years before you need to renew your Canada passport. The good news is that the government offers what they call a “simplified” renewal for adults who already have a valid Canadian passport.

While it is certainly true that renewing your passport is far simpler than applying for a NEXUS pass or a visa for China, it can still be somewhat time-consuming. I endured this very process earlier this week, so now I’d like to pass on a little bit of wisdom that I gained from the experience.

Fill Out Your Form Ahead of Time

You can get the simplified renewal application from the Passport Canada website. It is a PDF document that can be mostly filled out on your computer. This way, there are no ambiguities about your handwriting, but you can certainly print out the blank form and fill it out that way. It definitely pays to have your form pre-filled when you arrive at the passport office, because that will save you a lot of time and headache.

Get Your Photos

There are tons of places that can do passport photos and they’re all pretty much the same. You’re not looking for any kind of artistic expression here; just make sure that they adhere to the rules and that they stamp the back of the photos. Unlike the original application, you don’t need a guarantor to sign the back of the pictures for a simplified renewal.

No Cash Accepted

It doesn’t matter if you plan on sending in your application through the mail or you are going to drop it off in person; the government won’t take cash. The accepted methods of payment are credit card, debit card, certified cheque and money order. A standard 24-page adult passport, valid for five years, is going to cost you $87. This includes the $25 consular fee.

Go to a Passport Canada Office

Yes, it is true that you can drop off your simplified passport renewal application at a Service Canada location, but it is in your best interest to visit a Passport Canada office instead. When I went to the Service Canada office near my house, I was told that processing could take up to six weeks. They recommended that I go to a Passport Canada location instead, since the processing there would only take up to two weeks.

You can look at the Passport Canada website for a list of service locations. If you’re in no rush and you trust the postal service not to lose your current passport, you can alternatively mail in your application. I think going in-person is better.

Be Prepared to Wait

I knew this going in, but the wait was longer than I expected. I went to the Passport Canada office in the Sinclair Centre in Downtown Vancouver on a weekday afternoon. Upon arriving, I stood in one line to see the first clerk. He took a brief glance to make sure I had everything and then he handed me a number. I took a seat among many other people.

And then I waited. And waited. Finally, my number was called, I spoke to the clerk briefly, and I was handed an “Acknowledgement of Application Received” slip with the estimated delivery date. The passport would be sent via registered mail in about two weeks. You can pay additional fees to have it sooner, up to $70 for 24-hour turnaround.

All said, it took about 75 minutes from the time I stepped into the office and stood in the first line to the time I finally stepped out of the office and headed back down the stairs.

Other People Can Do It For You

If you cannot go to the Passport Canada office yourself, someone else can go on your behalf. This person will need to come armed with a letter of authorization, signed by you. If this person is a direct family member, though, I was told that a letter of authorization is not needed.

It Is Simpler

Since you don’t have to go through the process of dealing with a guarantor or jump through some of the other hoops, the simplified renewal application for a Canada passport is a relatively simple process. It just takes time.