THE MOST DYSFUNCTIONAL PASSPORT IN THE WORLD
This is a very dysfunctional passport for the frequent traveller. Trust me on one thing – DON’T EVER LOSE OR DAMAGE IT (unless you have lots of time to replace it). Here are all the problems:
If you require your passport to be renewed from outside Canada, it takes a long time. This may be no big issue if you will be in one place for 4-6 weeks but that is not my style of travel.
Your passport is required in most countries to book a hotel or take any transportation, so with no passport, do you have to stay in one place and do nothing? General renewal costs an exorbitant C$260.
Simple Renewal. If your passport has no problems (damage or loss) it requires 10 working days plus mailing time – about 5 working days on each end for a courier to anywhere in the world. Total time 4 weeks.
General Renewal. Necessary if your passport is damaged or lost or being renewed early. The passport must be sent to Gatineau Quebec. Requires 20 working days plus mailing time. Total time 6 weeks.
1. The 10-Year and the 5-Year passport are exactly the same size – 36 pages. This is to save money in the renewal process. If you travel a lot and a passport lasts you less than 5 years, the 10-year may be a waste of money – it is for me as I never get 5 years out of a passport.
It is not possible to get a larger passport in Canada. There is no “Diplomatic Passport” and no ability to add extra pages or ‘books’.
2. Number of Usable Pages: Canada Passport is very proud that “This Passport Has 36 Pages”. BUT only 29 pages are available for visas. Most countries offer passports with many more available pages.
This is no big deal if you make one trip a year. However some big trips would be impossible with such a small passport. For example, my planned 2016-17 trip was overland from Morocco to Cape Town to Cairo, 42 weeks, 26 countries and 32 pages required for visas.
My tour company said that we would have a few weeks before Ethiopia to get a new passport and the Ethiopian visa (available only from Canada), but I don’t think there was that much time. I instead booked Morocco to Cape Town (22 weeks, 16 countries and 22 pages required for visas) with a plan to see several more countries in southern Africa. This passport would only last one year.
The 36-page passport only has 29 usable pages as five potential pages plus the inside of both covers are wasted with information of no use:
The inside of the front cover states the obvious – yes this is what a passport is for.
Page 1 – Likewise states the obvious – yes this is a passport.
Page 3 – “Endorsements and Limitations” – Is this necessary? I don’t understand what endorsements or limitations are. I have never seen a passport with anything on this page.
Page 4 – “Loss or Theft of Passport”. If I have lost my passport, this information is not available to me. Include the permanent address and contact information on some other page. This is important information.
Page 35 – “Do not stamp this page”. Why not? Hopefully you realize that most countries I visit can’t read English. I now have 3 stamps on this page.
Page 36 – Surely this statement can be omitted and stated on some introductory letter sent with the new passport.
Inside back cover. “Important Notice to Canadian Passport Holders”. The print is so small, I can hardly read it. Again include this info in a separate letter. Use this page for some of the other useless information on page 1, 3, 35, and 36 if you feel it needs to be included.
And of course everything is in English and French. This wastes twice the space.
3. Format of Each Page. Of the 29 pages available for visas, the whole page is not usable for stamps. Immigration agents rarely stamp over other stamps or dark areas that might obscure their stamp.
The line “This Passport has 36 pages” in a heavy blue line makes the bottom 1 centimeter of the page unusable.
The “VISAS” line in the top middle of each page makes the top 1-centimeter of each page unusable.
The red maple leaf logo on each page makes that area of the page unusable.
Having these items on a page makes no sense – who cares if there are 36 pages – especially if you don’t? What is the page for if it is not for visas – this heading serves no purpose. The red maple leaf logo likewise serves no purpose. If you must have these, make the same shade as the background colour and much less dark.
4. No Viable Options: After long negotiations with Passport Canada, I was initially led to believe that there was a solution – 2 passports. But in the end that too was not a viable option.
a. Passport Canada warned me that if a foreign immigration officer were to find a second passport, that might be illegal in some countries and the passports could be confiscated.
b. If I were to get two passports, I would have to pay double and the passport would only last 2 years. (As I had already changed my 2016-17 travel plans to suit a shorter, but possible trip, this would not be cost-effective). I was told that they had never had this problem before and as far as they know, nobody has 2 passports in Canada. I ended up getting a 5-year passport.
OTHER POOR DESIGN ISSUES
1. Picture Page on Page 2.
It is always cumbersome for the immigration officer to find the Picture Page. As it is on page 2 (the pages are inside cover, Page 1: an information statement, Page 2: Picture Page), custom officials never find the picture page on opening the passport. open it to the back and look for it there and then rifle through the passport until they finally find it on page 2. What a pain.
2. Photograph is Not Colour-Fast. Don’t get you photo wet. It is a digital inked copy of an actual photo and the picture rapidly become unrecognizable. This happened to me on December 4 2015 – I proceeded to go through 24 immigrations without major problems (I also carried my Drivers License with a photo and a colour copy of the Picture Page). But there were unnecessary hassles.
Accidents occur. Once I was caught in a terrible rain storm and it was impossible to keep anything dry. My passport got wet that time too but the picture was not affected.
1. Make the general passport renewal process the same duration as a simple renewal (10 working days). Why should there be any difference??
2. Provide an express service that shortens the renewal process for emergencies or someone like me who travels a great deal and doesn’t stay anywhere long.
3. Ideally make it possible for any embassy or consulate to produce an emergency passport in just a few working days. It shouldn’t be hard. Use a normal passport photo. Reproduce the information page with a shortened expiry date 6 months from the termination of a trip. It wouldn’t take much effort or work.
4. Provide travellers with 2 passports. Some countries (Australia) do this. I would love it. I have even considered trying to obtain a second passport from the USA (my father was born there) but have no idea how possible it is. The luckiest travellers are ones with passports from at least 2 countries – almost complete freedom as one could use the most convenient passport for wherever you are.
5. Reduce the cost.
1. Make a French or English version so that only one language needs to be used.
2. Put the picture page inside the front cover – the best place.
3. Eliminate the information on the inside of the front cover, page 1, page 3, top two thirds of page 4, page 5, page 35, page 36 and inside of front cover. Use the inside of the back cover for the following statements: This passport is the property of the Canadian Government, address, contact information and something about the contactless integrated circuit and that it must not get wet, folded or damaged.
4. Eliminate the unnecessary information on each visa page – make those pages blank or in a light colour that immigration officials will stamp over.
5. Many countries offer their citizens the possibility of having two copies of the same passport.
6. Make the photo colourfast.