Tips to make applying for a passport a little easier

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[Topic: How to apply for a Canadian passport]

Several members of our clan have recently renewed their passports. Here are some things that we discovered to ease the way.

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There’s a simplified process, requiring less filling in of forms, if you have a passport that’s still valid but near expiry, or if it has expired for no more than one year. Save yourself some trouble and renew before expiry or within that year. Other conditions are listed on the Passport Canada website.

Download the Passport Canada PDF form that’s appropriate to your situation, fill it in on your computer, then print it out. The advantage with the PDF form is that it will flag problems, such as missing information. It could also make your visit at the passport office faster because the form generates a bar code that contains some of the information you've typed. At the passport office, the code is scanned, and the amount of typing the person behind the counter needs to do is reduced.

The forms are in the upper right corner on this Passport Canada web page.

Read the directions carefully. Passport Canada is fussy about documentation and how your photo is taken.

The fastest way to get your passport processed is to go to a passport office. Before you go, make sure you have everything that you need. During my wait, several people ahead of me seemed to be missing things, or hadn’t filled in their form properly. (You can also submit your application at a Service Canada office or by mailing it to Passport Canada, but the processing time will be longer, and you'll be without your personal identification documents until they are returned to you with the new passport.)

How to wait in line at the Victoria passport office.

The Victoria passport office is in the Bay Centre, 1150 Douglas St., on Level 4, the top floor, next to the food court. It’s open weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. After you come up on the escalator, turn left.

When you enter the office, you are greeted by a security guard, who will direct you to a lineup to the left.

A person at a wicket will do a preliminary check to see if you have the required documents. You’ll get a combo alphabet-number slip denoting your place in line. Annoy the person at the wicket by being the 300th person that day to ask how long your wait will be.

Sit in the waiting area and watch for your number to appear on one of the screens above the wickets, or on a scrolling central screen. Go up to the wicket when your alphabet-number appears above it. If you aren't paying attention, they might call your number.

Or go for a snack in the food court if there are a lot of people ahead of you. There are screens in the food court showing the latest numbers being served.

Longest waits seem to be around mid-day. I arrived at 11 a.m. and waited for nearly 90 minutes. A relative went straight to a wicket without waiting when she arrived after 4 p.m.

When it is your turn, present your documents. If you want to keep your old passport as a souvenir, tell the clerk.

They prefer that you pay with a credit card or debit card. They do not accept cash or personal cheques. 

The fees will sting. There’s a 5-year option for $120, and a 10-year for $160. You can pay more for expedited service.

If everything is in order, and the credit card machine doesn’t stall, you’ll be done at the wicket in 5 to 10 minutes.

It took about 10 days for my passport to arrive by registered mail, which requires a signature and ID. I missed the delivery attempt at home and had to pick it up from the postal counter inside the Uptown Shoppers Drug Mart.

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