Passport Application Lines = Hell

My passport expires in February of this year, and I have to travel to Seattle in March for the MVP Summit, so it was time to get a new passport. Unfortunately, now that the USA requires Canadians to have passports for entry (effective January 23rd), it’s causing massive backlog in the system and very long times. Having no other choice but to try and “beat the traffic”, we went for it today…


That’s a picture of the line at the Calgary Passport office. Ashley and I woke up at 5am, drove downtown, and by 6:15am we were in line – and were probably 40th or so. People kept arriving after us, and by 7:15am there had to be at least 200 people in line. The employees started arriving around 7:30am, and we watched as they walked past us, came out to get a coffee, eat a danish, then go back inside. It was all I could do not to say something to them like “Why don’t you open the doors, can’t you see all of us here?”. I brought my laptop to do some writing, but that early in the morning my neurons weren’t all firing in sync, so I opted to read Cell instead (a pretty good book). They oh-so-graciously opened the doors about 8:15am, a whole 15 minutes earlier than normal. 🙄


Once inside we got to sit in plastic chairs while we waited for them to call our number. We were C907, and they were already serving C903, so I was hopeful it wasn’t going to take too long. You definitely want to fill out the form online – people that had the hand-completed passport documents were processed by different booth dwellers, and there were fewer of them to help. Speaking of help, the Passport Office had 12 booths for processing people, yet only five were staffed. They have hundreds of people outside, and only five people processing. Great job government. 🙄 Thankfully, the process wasn’t too horrible once our number was called – it took perhaps 15 minutes. We were out the door by 8:45am, making the whole thing 2. 5 hours of waiting and 15 minutes of actual activity.

I find myself feeling very disappointed in how our government is handling this – they should be opening temporary passport processing offices in several places around the city. Ashley told me that Calgary has two passport offices, while all of Alberta only has three – and Price Edward Island has five in total. That makes zero sense. Processing evidently takes around a month, with the new delays, so I’m supposed to get mine near the end of February – just in time for my trip in March.

What I find interesting is that they cancel and partially destroy your current passport – meaning that I’m now unable to leave the country. What if I had a business trip that suddenly came up? What do business people do that travel a great deal? The system seems somehow broken.

  • ctmagnus

    I’ve heard of lines like that in that office years ago. When I went to renew my passport a year or so ago, I walked into the building, went straight to the room with the red plastic chairs, and had to wait five minutes. Timing is everything ;).

  • Janak Parekh

    Also, can’t you renew your passport by mail?

  • Yes, you can apply for a passport by mail, but it adds an additional 10 business days of processing – which would put me right at the edge of when I’d need it by. Lining up was my only choice.

    And you’d think there’d be a way to renew your passport, but there isn’t: each time you’re re-applying from scratch. It’s a bad system.

  • shig

    Did you apply at 220-4th Avenue South East?
    Do you know what time is open the door of building?
    How long will it take to get passport in your case?

    I’v plan to go to the office on early next week.

    Please let me know it.

    Thank you

  • I’ve never been to the SE location, and I don’t know that I’d recommend it – I don’t know that there’s any place to wait, which means it would be very cold. The down town location has a place for you to wait in line because they open the building at 6am or so (you might want to call and check).

  • shig

    Actually, I went to the downtown office today.
    I arrived there around 6:15 a.m. and I was in the line in front of the stair.
    I’ll go to Japan on last week of Mar. So I wanted to apply picking up passport at the office.
    But I couldn’t do it because I’m not leave here in 20 days.
    Anyway, the passport should arrive in 3 to 4 weeks by courier. (Praying…)

    I’m glad to see your site and went there early morning.
    It’s starting moving the line around 8:00
    I’d done by around 9:30 a.m.


  • Glad to hear it worked out for you Shig – I’m sure you’ll get your passport in time!

  • shig

    Hello! I got all passport on Mar. 2!!! So, it takes only 3 weeks.

  • neilck96

    I went to the Harry Hays Passport office today. Here’s a link to my experience there:—harry-hays.html

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