Canadian Passport Tip

As of January 1st, 2006, or maybe 2007 or 2008, but someday, all Canadian citizens will be required to present a valid passport to enter the United States.  I thought it was January 2006, but apparently that’s changed (or was never correct).

I just went through the process of applying, and I wanted to offer a tip.

The lineup at the Passport Canada office in Ottawa this morning was quite long.  There is a lineup to get in, and then there’s another waiting area inside with chairs.  The first lineup leads you to a pre-screening agent, who verifies that your papers, photos, and other documents are in order, so you don’t wait around for hours only to be sent away. 

I calculated about a 2 hour wait once I could count the number of people in the second waiting area, based on the rate that people seemed to be moving.

But while talking to the first agent, he said “Oh you filled out your application on the Internet; I’ll give you a priority number, pay attention to the board, you’ll be up soon” and sure enough, in less than 5 minutes, my number was up.

In other words, fill out your passport application online rather than filling in a blank application by hand. You’ll save yourself a lot of time.

The reason they do this is because when I got to the desk, they ran my application through a scanner, and their software OCR’ed the form so that the agent didn’t have to re-key all the data from my application.  This saves them a lot of time – I guess they pass that savings on to you.