Two weeks ago, I completed what I hope is my last paperwork chore for a while. But it was worth it—I’ve just picked my very first Canadian passport!
Since I’m now a Canadian citizen, I’m entitled to a Canadian passport. I couldn’t wait! First, as a traveller, I obviously value passports. Apparently, it is estimated that 187 countries and territories grant visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Canadian passport holders. In addition to my French passport, that’s a lot of visa-free travels! Canadian passports are also very useful to go to the US since I won’t need to go through the visa-waiver restrictions anymore: paying $7, having my fingerprints and my picture taken and applying for an Electronic Travel Authorization before travelling to or through the US was not a pleasant experience. To me, a Canadian passport is also the symbol of my new citizenship, and I’m proud to be Canadian.
Applying for a Canadian passport is not that easy, though.
The first section of the three-page application is easy to fill up with basic personal information, such as name, date of birth, etc.
For the second section, you will need a guarantor to vouch for you. The guarantor must hold a valid Canadian passport; have known the applicant for at least two years; be a Canadian citizen 18 years of age or older; be accessible to Passport Canada for verification and live in Canada or in the US Feng was my obvious choice!
I had never had a Canadian passport, so section 3 didn’t apply to me. As for section 4, the proof of Canadian section, my case was straightforward: I became Canadian through naturalization. My proof of citizenship had been given to me on the day of the ceremony: my citizenship card. Documents to prove identity, easy as well: Health Card and Driver’s Licence (thanks God I have one even though I don’t really drive!).
The last section, the additional personal information one, was a bit trickier.
First, I had to state where I was employed and for how long. Then, I had to find two references, who are not relatives, have known me for at least two years and speak either French or English. I do know a lot of people, but I was pretty shy about asking them to vouch for me. In the end, I asked my closest friend in Ottawa and my language school’s administrative assistant. She wasn’t surprised at all and she told me she had just provided a reference for my boss’s passport. I guess all Canadians know the process and have to go through it!
Last and final step, I had two passport pictures taken, the ugly ones that look like mug shots because we are not allowed to smile.
All in all, the application is not difficult too complete. Definitely less difficult than applying for permanent residence, but—surprisingly—more difficult than applying for citizenship!
In France, there is no system of references or guarantor. Very few information is asked as far as I remember (I applied for my last passport in 2003!), certainly not where you work, etc. So I was a little bit surprised to see all the information needed to get a Canadian passport. But apparently, foreign spies tend to use Canadian passports (a relatively neutral country whose citizens travel a lot) so there is a somewhat extensive on applicant’s background now.
I decided to apply in person at the downtown Passport Canada office, so that I wouldn’t have to send my citizenship card and other ID documents. Apparently, everybody had the same idea: the place was just packed. As of June 1, 2009, Canadians officially need a passport to enter the USA via land or water (they only needed birth certificate or driver’s licence before), so a lot of people are applying right now.
After an hour wait, I brought my application to the agent. She checked everything, had a look at my IDs and that was it! Passports are not cheap: $87. I asked if I could pick my own passport up (otherwise they are sent my mail, and it’s quite erratic in the summer), which cost another $10. I’m not sure why it’s more expensive to pick a passport up in person rather than have it sent but never mind. Processing time: only two weeks.
And so, today, exactly two weeks later, I rushed at noon to get my brand new passport. It’s beautiful. Navy blue, with a bunch a cool security features my old French passport doesn’t have. I just have to fill it up with entry and exit stamps now.