When the Rolfe family booked a long weekend trip to Las Vegas with their two teenagers, they realized that their 18-year-old daughter Paige’s passport would expire just before the trip.
They sent Paige’s application for passport renewal by courier in February after seeing the approximate turnaround time of 20 business days on the Service Canada website.
“We felt more than okay based on the information on their website,” said Father Shaun Rolfe. “I ended up seeing the payment processed on my credit card on March 23, so at that point we figured we were all good, we would receive it in late March, early April.”
When Paige’s new passport had still not arrived a week before their departure from Vancouver on April 14, and after her parents received no response to multiple emails with tracking requests to Service Canada, they began to panic.
“We made the decision that we would get an emergency passport, which we heard you can do,” Shaun said. He brought Paige to the passport office in downtown Vancouver Monday morning, and after waiting for hours, he was first turned away because their trip was just outside the 48-hour emergency passport window.
“I sweetly talked us in the door that day, and in the end it saved us,” Shaun said. “The passport was picked up by us at 3.30pm on Wednesday and we were at the airport at 4pm on Thursday morning.”
His advice to other travelers who need to renew their passports before spring and summer travel? Do not rely on the waiting time estimate on the Service Canada website.
“It’s completely misleading,” Shaun said. “I can tell you that almost everyone down at that passport office was of the same belief, they were either in the office with more than enough time to get what they needed, or they were in the same situation as us where they had posted it on mail and saw nothing left. “
Service Canada says it is dealing with a huge backlog of applications as Canadians who let their passports expire during COVID-19 lockdowns start booking travel again.
Shaun strongly recommends that people book a personal appointment in advance instead of sending the passport application by mail or hoping to get in at the last minute.
“They made it very clear that they were so overwhelmed with booked appointments right now that a meeting in the office does not guarantee anything,” he said.
If they had not managed to get Paige’s passport in time, the family would have been out of thousands of airline tickets and accommodations in Vegas. Her parents could not stand the alternative.
“The only option we had was to travel without my daughter, and I don’t think we had the heart to do that,” Shaun said.
Paige’s passport managed it with hours to spare. Now all four of Rolfes are all in Vegas – a great place to feel lucky.