Passport lineups and frustration sprout 'freelance line standers'

If you need a passport but do not want to wake up before dawn or cannot take a day off work to stand in long, winding queues at a Service Canada Office, hiring a “freelance line stander” may be an option for you.

In recent days, advertisements for “freelance line standers” have started appearing on online classifieds website Kijiji. For anywhere from $17 to $50 per hour, you can hire someone to stand line at a Service Canada office and get a text or call when they’re nearing the front of the line.

“Why wait in long, tired lineups when I can do it for you? $100 flat rate – covers first two hours, $25 thereafter,” one online advertisement for service in downtown Toronto reads.

Right now, the government website pertaining to passports warns applicants it is “experiencing very high call volumes right now.” While appointments can be booked online, some applicants tell CTV News they can’t get an appointment until June.

The government of Canada is blaming the difficulty getting an appointment and the long lines on high demand and a renewed interest in travel. From April 1 2021 to March 31 2022 Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees Service Canada, said it has issued 1,273,000 passports, 250 per cent more than in the same period the year before.

Toronto student M.D. Sakib has recently started offering his line standing service to people seeking a passport. He describes his service as a “win-win.” For $17 an hour, he will wait in line and contact you when he’s close to the front.

“As soon as I get to the line, I send a picture and that basically starts the hourly rate,” Sakib told CTV National News. “From there we go until we meet and I give up my position.”

Sakib put his advertisement on Kijiji this week after lining up outside a Toronto passport office at 3:30 a.m. so a family member could get a passport.

“I’m a student with a bit of free time, so I offer this service for people who don’t have the time,” he said. “ Time is money and the lineup for passport or Service Canada is insane.”

CTV News spoke to multiple people with posts on Kijiji who described the new “industry” as lucrative and in high demand. One man, who did not want to be named, told CTV News he charges $50 an hour and has made multiple trips to the passport office on other people’s behalf in the last few weeks.

“I saw an article, then I searched Kijiji. Then I thought, if others are doing it why can’t I give it a try,” another line stander wrote to CTV News in an email.

The government is encouraging Canadians to apply early for passports and not to finalize a trip until their passport has been received. Travel experts fear the resurgence of travel means the long lines at both passport offices and airports won’t ease anytime soon.

In a statement, Employment and Social Development Canada offered this guidance to travelers:

  • To avoid long lines, Canadians with no imminent travel can apply by visiting any of over 300 Service Canada Centres.
  • Anyone requiring a passport within the next 3-25 business days must apply in person at one of the 35 specialized passport sites and have proof of travel or need.
  • Anyone who requires a Passport within two business days must visit the nearest specialized passport site (Service Canada Centre – Passport Service) offering urgent pickup service. Proof of travel or need is required in these cases.