Backgrounder on passport services


Graph showing the elimination of the passport backlog by 98%. Title reads: “Return to steady state on passport delivery”

Since April 2022, Service Canada has put a number of measures in place to make it easier for Canadians to access passport services, and to improve processing.   

This includes:

  • Implementing a triage system in metropolitan areas where required.
  • Implementing a new process that allows clients to request that their application be prioritized and transferred to an office for pick-up due to upcoming travel.
  • Establishing a simplified renewal process for any adult passport issued in the last 15 years.  
  • Launching an appointment-booking tool at that directs clients to the right location for service.
  • Increasing access to passport services, with the addition of 13 Service Canada Centres offering 10-day service.
  • Adding processing hubs across the country.  
  • Expanding the delivery of passport services to scheduled outreach sites to help meet the passport needs of rural and remote communities.
  • Adapting hours of service for clients who could not be accommodated during regular hours.
  • Publishing up-to-date statistics and wait times on a weekly basis via the Passport program statistics.
  • Requesting staff from other departments assisted with passport processing. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also identified program delivery changes to help Service Canada process applications faster.
  • Increasing the number of staff delivering passports since April 2021 to over 2,600 (see table).

An overview since spring 2022

With the easing of restrictions and the resumptions of travel in the spring, Service Canada experienced a surge in demand for passports. This surge resulted in lineups and longer wait times for service.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a set of interconnected issues to which Service Canada was unable to swiftly and effectively respond. This affected the timely delivery of passport services to Canadians. These issues include: 

  1. a sudden increase in the volume of applications; 
  2. a loss of efficiency due to a shift to mail-in applications and public health capacity restrictions; and 
  3. a large proportion of complex applications. 

Only 20% of the normally anticipated passport volume was received during the first 2 years of the pandemic. This means that 3 million fewer Canadians renewed or applied for a passport during the pandemic.

The high application volume, combined with the health and safety measures in place, led to a build-up of inventory that exceeded our capacity to process applications within service standards. The proportion of applications received by mail nearly doubled. In addition, a significant segment of all applications received were for new passports, as opposed to renewals. These are more complex and take longer to process than simple renewals. 

During the summer, Service Canada implemented measures to help expedite the intake and processing of applications to help Canadians get their passports in a timely way.

By hiring more staff, increasing efficiency, and streamlining processes, Service Canada saw record numbers of passports issued between August and December 2022. Since October 3, 2022, all passport applications received, both in person and by mail, have been processed within pre-pandemic service standards.  Also, in-person services are more reflective of a pre-COVID-19 experience, where lineups are manageable and passports are delivered within our service standards. 

As of January 24, 2023, approximately 98% of passport application in the backlog have been processed, and the backlog has been eliminated.

Passport service now and in the future

Service Canada would like to encourage Canadians to submit their passport applications in advance of making travel plans. The service standard for an in-person application at a specialized passport office is 10 business days, and 20 business days for mail-in applications and applications made at any of over 300 Service Canada Centre. Applying in-person allows, in most situations, the applicant to have their documents reviewed in-person and to take their documents home with them instead of sending them in the mail.

The Passport program expects and anticipates seasonal peaks in demand, such as the upcoming March Break, which may result in lineups for in-person service, as occurred prior to the pandemic. The first passports with 10-year validity (issued in 2013) are also expiring this year, therefore Service Canada anticipates an increase of renewal applications. Canadians with passports expiring this year or those with new applications are encouraged to apply now.

For more information on how to apply and obtain a passport application, Canadians can visit the Canadian passports and other travel documents: Applying in Canada webpage.

Transfers for applications that are outside service standards

Canadians who applied for their passport more than 20 business days ago can contact the Passport Program, or visit a passport office or a Service Canada Centre to request a transfer, to ensure their application is processed in time for their travel. Proof of travel is not required for applications outside of service standards.  

Month Total Passport Operational Workforce Month Total Passport Operational Workforce
April 2021


January 2022


May 2021 978 February 2022 1343
June 2021 1172 March 2022 1365
July 2021 1189 April 2022 1638
August 2021 1204 May 2022 1699
September 2021 1223 June 2022 1771
October 2021 1248 July 2022 1903
November 2021 1275 August 2022 2117
December 2021 1292 September 2022 2277
    October 2022 2345
    November 2022 2590
    December 2022 2639
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: