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Passport Daze

I received my latest passport in December. Since Canadian passports must be renewed every five years, this one must be my 12th since I turned 16 in December 1950.


July 9, 2007
By Richard Purser

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It is surely certain that all readers of this magazine and its sister
publication WINGS are passport holders. Travel is so fundamental to our
industry, including its journalistic offshoots where I hang out, that
non-possession of a passport would be unthinkable among its denizens.

I
received my latest passport in December. Since Canadian passports must
be renewed every five years, this one must be my 12th since I turned 16
in December 1950. The process got me thinking, probably not for the
first time, about what a pain in the rear end this whole business of
applying for a passport really is.

Having had experience with
the miserable lineups at the passport office in the federal government
building in the city where I live, I picked the first really cold and
nasty day of winter to show up with my application form in hand. Sure
enough, there were no more than a dozen people ahead of me. The
commissionaire on duty told me that the previous day I would have had
to wait for more than an hour. A talkative chap, he advised those in
the short queue to check their papers, as four applicants had already
been turned away for insufficient documentation in the hour or so that
the office had been open.

I was in and out of the parking garage
in 40 minutes flat, and 14 days later I went downtown again briefly to
collect my shiny new passport – a distinct improvement over the
previous one in that my picture was an integral part of the printed
document, not merely pasted in.

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But what a pointless nuisance it all seemed to be!

I
appreciate that passports must be renewed from time to time – although
I would think every 10 years might be sufficient – because our
appearance (sadly) changes with time. So we must bring in an updated
photograph for a renewal. And if I’m still travelling when I turn 76, I
may also have to provide biometrics for my next passport; the agent who
delivered my latest passport said that starting in about a
year-and-a-half, passports will include an embedded chip containing
as-yet-undetermined additional information.

Fair enough.

And
I appreciate that a first-time applicant must prove his or her
citizenship, which is after all the sole criterion for the issuance of
a passport. But why is every renewal applicant treated as a first-time
applicant? Every five years we have to go through the full routine. We
have to provide a birth or citizenship certificate, as if we had not
done so the first time we applied. (My original birth certificate so
deteriorated over time that a decade or so ago I had to apply to my
province of birth for a new, more legible one.)

We have to have
someone from one of 15 specific professions guarantee our application
and sign the back of our picture. (For your amusement, take a few
moments to read that list of professions on the passport application
instruction sheet.) In practice, this means I have to make a nuisance
of myself in my dentist’s office every five years, forcing him to take
time out from his work.

We have to provide two additional
personal references, which means that every five years I have to notify
my two latest employers to expect a call from Passport Canada.

Yet when we get our first passport, we have already proven the only thing we need to prove – our Canadian citizenship.

If
we show up with a valid existing passport – and we are obviously the
person in the picture – then should that in itself not be proof of our
citizenship? Why do we have to keep re-proving what has already been
proven?

Why not have a separate, simple, one-page passport
RENEWAL application that omits all the baggage that may be necessary
for a first time application? All it need do is update personal
information (address, employment, contact numbers. etc.) That and a new
picture should do it. No birth certificate (it hasn’t changed!) and no
third party stuff needed.

But, government being government, I suppose that’s all too simple.


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