'It's very frustrating': Passport problems putting long weekend trips in jeopardy

Dozens of people who camped overnight outside the Surrey, B.C., passport office were told they won’t get their paperwork processed on Thursday, putting their long weekend trips in jeopardy.

Most had applied to renew their passports weeks ago but haven’t received their new one yet. With their flights quickly approaching, they were told go in-person to a Service Canada office within 48 hours of their departure to get an emergency passport.

The desperate would-be travellers spent the night on folding chairs and in tents in the Central City mall parking lot to get a better place in line at the Surrey office, but were quickly disappointed.

“At 7 o‘clock this morning somebody came from inside and said today we are not taking any applications,” said Vinder Jaggi, whose 12-year-old daughter needs her new passport for a family trip to New Delhi on Saturday.

Serena Vlassovoulos had been looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas on Saturday. Her new passport hasn’t come, so she arrived at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night hoping to apply first thing Thursday morning, within the 48 hour window for a emergency passport.

“They said to bring proof of travel and of course there’s a big line up, but that’s what it says to do. But when you get here, they’re pretty much telling you nope, if you don’t have an appointment, just leave,” said Vlassovoulos.

David Miller needs his new passport for a work trip to Nevada on Sunday. He also camped out overnight hoping for an emergency document, and was furious when security guards told the line up that only those with appointments would be seen on Thursday.

“It’s very frustrating, especially when the queue is moving so slowly and they have hardly anyone working,” said Miller.

While Service Canada claims it’s back to pre-pandemic capacity and has re-opened all its passport counters across the country to deal with the massive backlog, Miller says that’s not true in Surrey.

“I poked my head in earlier on my way to the bathroom, and there were 20 counters and there were three staff. So I just want to know what’s going on. It’s a joke,“ he said.

“I’ve never seen living in a country like Canada something happening like this,” said Vaggi who came from India 42 years go, “It’s very disappointing.”

At the front of the line, Sukhbir Singh and his wife have been taking turns waiting outside the mall with their baby since Monday, hoping to get an emergency passport for their flight to New Delhi on Friday night.

“They said anyone within 48 hours, they can stay here. And after one hour, they said they’re not going to take any applications for today,” said Singh, who decided to keep waiting because he would have to pay hefty fees if they have to cancel their flights.

“We have three tickets, so probably $1,200, $1,300. That’s a lot, right?” said Singh, adding “This is the worst experience.”

Vlassovoulos also decided to keep her place in line. “I stayed here all night, I’m just going to stay here ‘til it closes. I mean, I feel Iike I just wasted the whole day otherwise. It’s the only thing I can do at this point,” she said.

Miller was determined to wait as well. “If I can’t get it today, I have to come back tomorrow and hope for the best,” he said. “And if I can’t get it on Friday, then the whole thing’s got to be cancelled.”  

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