Manitoba

4-month wait for passports forces Manitoba family to cancel summer trip

A Manitoba mom says she's had to cancel her family's summer vacation plans, four months after she applied for her kids' passport renewals. High demand for passports has led to long lines at passport offices and disappointment for families like hers.

In-person application at passport office with proof of travel the fastest option, government says

Corrie McCorkle shows a photo of the hotel she had booked for a family vacation to the U.S. She said she brought that as proof of her travel plans when she went to the passport office to try to complete her son's passport application in May. She still doesn't have the passport. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Corrie McCorkle thought applying to renew her kids' passports in March, almost two months before they were originally supposed to travel for a family vacation, would've left ample time for everyone to make the trip. 

Four months later, the Manitoba woman still has no clear word on when the passports will come.

After paying to postpone the trip from May to July, McCorkle says she was forced to cancel the vacation this week.

Even if the passports come now, she wouldn't be able to make the trip work this summer, she said.

"I don't have time off work. All the time is taken for the summer."

High demand for passports from people looking to travel, after two years of pandemic restrictions made that impossible for many, has led to long lines at passport offices across Canada and disappointment for families like McCorkle's.

The latest data from the federal government shows that since April 1 this year, there have been more than 871,000 passport applications. Just under 557,000 have been issued during that time period.

Service Canada says it received 166,000 more applications from April to June than it did during the same period in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

'It was completely ruined'

McCorkle, who works in the medical field, says she hasn't been able to take time off for the last two years. 

"We're constantly working, and then I had two kids in high school … [including] one I was trying to get pushed through to graduate. So it's like, we were just so overwhelmed and busy that nobody had time to do anything," she said. 

Eyeing the easing of travel restrictions, she planned to drive with her husband and two kids on May 15 to Grand Forks and Devils Lake in North Dakota. 

"It was completely ruined," McCorkle said. 

A family of four, surrounded by balloons at a celebration, smiles for the camera.
McCorkle, second from left, with her kids and her husband, Stephen, right. She says her son and daughter are disappointed their trip is cancelled. (Submitted by Corrie McCorkle)

Losing the vacation is frustrating for her and a major disappointment to her kids, who had already exchanged their savings for American currency, she said.

McCorkle said her son, Jodeci, 17, and her daughter, Nikahya, 15, previously had passports, but they needed to be renewed. 

She mailed in two applications on March 6.

Two weeks after applying, payment for one application was processed. When she called to find out why the charge wasn't for two passports, she was told to wait a few weeks and call back, because neither application was showing up on the system, she said.

At the end of April, her son's application was returned with a letter stating that it was denied because of a problem with the identification they had submitted.

She also got a call on April 29, saying there was a problem with her daughter's application as well — her dad had signed her application but only initialled the back of her photograph. They faxed the information the caller requested immediately, McCorkle said.

She reapplied for her son in person at a Service Canada office on May 12, which was the first day she could get to one, and rescheduled the trip for July.

When she went to the office with her son, she showed them the itinerary and the agent assured her he'd get the passport with enough time for the trip.

McCorkle said she's called multiple times to follow up but has had to hold for long periods — once as long as four hours — or been told to call back.

"When you're working full time and you have two kids in high school, you can't just sit on the phone for five-and-a-half hours and wait to hear, 'Call us back in two more weeks,'" she said.

The passport call centre received 949,921 calls between July 4 and July 10, according to the federal government's website. It says the average wait time was 46 minutes.

CBC has requested comment on McCorkle's case from Employment and Social Development Canada, the federal department that operates Service Canada.

Best options for applications

The forecast volume of passport applications for this fiscal year has almost doubled from 2.4 million to 4.3 million, according to a statement posted online earlier this month from Karina Gould, the federal minister responsible for passport services.

Efforts are being made toward "resolving this unacceptable situation as quickly as possible," her statement said.

The July 7 statement also said an "enhanced triage system, which provides a more intensive, client-specific approach" for those who need passports urgently, has been implemented in a few cities.

For now, Manitobans looking to apply for passports should check the approximate passport wait times online to see the best option for applying. 

Those who need a passport in two business days or less have to apply at a passport office with urgent pickup service, which includes the Winnipeg office at 433 Main St.

Appointments can't be made for urgent applications — the service is walk-in only.

Those who need a passport within three to 45 business days can go to any passport office, and can make an appointment to do so.

Those who don't need their passport within 45 days can go to any Service Canada centre.

Gould's July 7 statement said that "the majority of Canadians with immediate travel needs have continued to receive their passport in time to travel."

But that's no comfort to McCorkle.

"It's been literally, what, 134 days since I sent in these passports? Like, what is taking so long?" she said. 

"Didn't take them very long to take my money. They took that real fast, but giving me my passports? Nope."

WATCH | Family holiday ruined by passport delay:

4-month wait for passports ruins family holiday

4 months ago
Duration 2:13
Corrie McCorkle tried to renew her kids' passports in March, almost two months before their vacation. Four months later, still without passports, she was forced to cancel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Wildes is a reporter at CBC in Manitoba. You can reach him at andrew.wildes@cbc.ca.

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