Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cookie Jar on the Road: Getting a Passport

Traveling to the USA from Canada and wondering if you need a passport?It’s hard to remember when the rules seem to keep changing.According to passport Canada’s website, As of January 31, 2008 Canadians entering the United States by land and marine ports of entry will be required to present: a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's licence AND a birth certificate or a citizenship card; ORfor persons aged 18 and under, a birth certificate or a citizenship card only; OR a valid passport.

So for road trippers like us entering by car, we didn’t need a passport this summer.We chose to get one just in case. I mean seriously, if we were in a car accident and needed to get home, would they let us fly without one? Or would we have to hunt down a Canadian embassy and get them? It just makes us feel better if we have them.

Getting a passport may seem like a monumental task, but it’s really not that difficult. Where there once were only a few offices in the Lower Mainland/Vancouver area, now there are eleven. The only issuing office, however, is at the Sinclair Center location in down town Vancouver. This means that the passports are actually printed at this office, and all the other locations mail the applications to Quebec. Your wait to receive your passport then may be shorter if you go to SinclairCenter, but it also could mean that your time standing in line to process your application will be much longer.

Mailing your passport is another option; however, do this only if you have been through the process before and are absolutely sure you have not made any mistakes filling it out.

Some tips for getting a passport:

-Apply early. Sometimes it’s fast, other times it can take weeks.

-Check the Passport Canada Website for service locations and hours of operation.Allow yourself plenty of time, as sometimes it can take hours of waiting in line. I was told that the best time to go is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday after 9 am.

-Be careful about who you choose to fill out the guarantor section.There is a new form that allows a Canadian citizen with a valid passport to be a guarantor.The old form does not and instead includes a list of professionals that can be a guarantor. Check your form carefully and make sure you fill it out correctly.

-Do not use your Social Insurance Card as identification. It will be rejected.

-For first time applications, I recommend going to a passport office and having a clerk go through your application with you to catch any mistakes that could cause a delay.

-don't make a bet with your husband about whose passport will arrive first, even though his was initially rejected and you're sure will take longer. You'll lose.

For more information about passport requirements and downloadable forms, visit Passport Canada.

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