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Purser: Passport Daze-Jan/Feb 06

Renewing passports is a matter of re-proving the already proven.


September 27, 2007
By Richard Purser

Topics

It is surely certain that all readers of this magazine and its sister
publication HELICOPTERS are passport holders. Travel is so fundamental
to our industry, including its journalistic offshoots where I hang out,
that non-possession of a passport would be unthinkable among its
denizens. I received my latest passport in December. Since Canadian
passports must be renewed every five years, this one must be my 12th
since I turned 16 in December 1950. The process got me thinking,
probably not for the first time, about what a pain in the rear end this
whole business of applying for a passport really is.

Having
had experience with the miserable lineups at the passport office in the
federal government building in the city where I live, I picked the
first really cold and nasty day of winter to show up with my
application form in hand. Sure enough, there were no more than a dozen
people ahead of me. The commissionaire on duty told me that the
previous day I would have had to wait for more than an hour. A
talkative chap, he advised those in the short queue to check their
papers, as four applicants had already been turned away for
insufficient documentation in the hour or so that the office had been
open.

I was in and out of the parking garage in 40 minutes flat,
and 14 days later I went downtown again briefly to collect my shiny new
passport – a distinct improvement over the previous one in that my
picture was an integral part of the printed document, not merely pasted
in.

But what a pointless nuisance it all seemed to be!

I
appreciate that passports must be renewed from time to time – although
I would think every 10 years might be sufficient – because our
appearance (sadly) changes with time. So we must bring in an updated
photograph for a renewal. And if I’m still travelling when I turn 76, I
may also have to provide biometrics for my next passport; the agent who
delivered my latest passport said that starting in about a year and a
half, passports will include an embedded chip containing
as-yetundetermined additional information.

Fair enough.

And
I appreciate that a first-time applicant must prove his or her
citizenship, which is after all the sole criterion for the issuance of
a passport. But why is every renewal applicant treated as a first-time
applicant? Every five years we have to go through the full routine.

We
have to provide a birth or citizenship certificate, as if we had not
done so the first time we applied. (My original birth certificate so
deteriorated over time that a decade or so ago I had to apply to my
province of birth for a new, more legible one.)

We have to have
someone from one of 15 specific professions guarantee our application
and sign the back of our picture. (For your amusement, take a few
moments to read that list of professions on the passport application
instruction sheet.) In practice, this means I have to make a nuisance
of myself in my dentist’s office every five years, forcing him to take
time out from his work.

We have to provide two additional
personal references, which means that every five years I have to notify
my two latest employers to expect a call from Passport Canada. Yet when
we get our first passport, we have already proven the only thing we
need to prove – our Canadian citizenship.

If we show up with a
valid existing passport – and we are obviously the person in the
picture – then should that in itself not be proof of our citizenship?
Why do we have to keep re-proving what has already been proven?

Why
not have a separate, simple, one-page passport renewal application that
omits all the baggage that may be necessary for a first-time
application? All it need do is update personal information (address,
employment, contact numbers. etc.) That and a new picture should do it.
No birth certificate (it hasn’t changed!) and no third-party stuff
needed.

But, government being government, I suppose that’s all too simple.