passport rant

So here I am, about to move to another country, again, and as I am preparing all the paperwork and getting all the documents, I realize something. I realize that my passport is set to expire next November… Now obviously this wouldn’t be a problem at the moment for most, but when you are moving overseas for 2 years and have your passport set to expire in the middle of it all, it is cause for concern. So after discussing with the principal of the school I will be working for in Majuro, I set out to get my passport renewed early, so I will not have to worry about finding a way to do it while living there, and having to deal with visa issues all over again too.

I set out for Service Canada in Whitehorse, mid March, not sure the exact day, as there is no passport office up here unfortunately. I went in to ask a few questions, and right off the bat the lady there was so unhelpful and just kept referring me to the table of passport applications and passport renewal applications. I tried to explain to her my situation but it was pointless. So there I was, looking at a bunch of applications to be sent in. I grabbed one of each, and decided I needed to go home and call Passport Canada. Stopping on the way to get my passport pictures taken, which cost me $20, my first purchase related to my passport. I go home, thinking this shouldn’t be a difficult task. I mean it’s just a simple renewal. I have a valid passport. I have never had any trouble traveling. My passport is full of stamps. I am renewing it early; they are making more money off of me because of it. This should be simple…

So I call, and I spoke to a lady, though full of knowledge of their procedures and how things work, still a fairly frustrating conversation. I was told to go to a Passport Office. She looked up the closest one to me; Vancouver. Asked if I could drive there. I told her it would take me 24 hours. She agreed that wasn’t a great plan. She then told me my next option would be to fill out the renewal application form, and write a letter with it explaining to them why I needed to renew early and send in proof of my employment overseas. It was a long conversation but I had it all figured out. I didn’t like the idea of sending my passport somewhere in the mail, but alas I filled out the renewal, wrote a letter, printed out a copy of my teaching contract and got my passport pictures, and sent it express to Ottawa, ($16 for express mail with tracking).

Once it was received in Ottawa, according to Canada Post tracking, I waited about a week, and then called to check the status (the lady on the phone had told me to call back weekly to make sure it was being processed). There was no status on the first call, but a few days later when I called again the lady says to me, “Oh no one has called you about this?”. She then went on to tell me that when they received my application, my current passport was damaged and therefore not only do I have to redo my entire application as a new applicant, and send it all in again, I also will not get my old passport back. This baffled me. My passport wasn’t damaged. I had no idea what she was talking about. I pleaded with her, and she said that it would not have been damaged there, and she cannot tell if it was before it was sent or not. But they had strict rules and it could be as simple as a drop of water on one of the pages. This was now just too much for me. I am trying to get this all done, so I can apply for my visa and get my flight booked and she is telling me I have to redo my application, and can’t have my old passport full of stamps and memories back. I also had to fill out another form about damaged passports, and write another letter explaining my situation and why I want my passport back… It’s mine just give it back. Why else would I want it back other than sentimental reasons? Worst. I had a minor breakdown on my kitchen floor, because I am an emotional human and started to stress out.

So I went at it again. Thankfully I have one friend here I have known longer than 2 years to be my guarantor to sign all my stuff for the application. So I filled it out, got my passport pictures reprinted ($5, thankfully still on file) and this time had to enclose my birth certificate. My passport gets damaged on the way, and now they want my original birth certificate. Fantastic. Anyways, passport application done, letter written, all documents enclosed. I sent it off (another $16 for express and tracking). This was April 9, 2015. Also the next day I notice I was charged for my passport on my credit card, even though they weren’t processing that application ($160 for the 10 year passport). Make sense to anyone?

On April 16, I check the tracking and it says it was delivered. I call on the Friday the 17th and there is no update, the lady on the phone tells me that it takes 5 days from when it says delivered to when it’s actually opened and being processed. I call back on the Monday the 20th, same story. Not in the system, but they ask my tracking number. I told the lady the number the last time, and I had misplaced the receipt at that moment so she couldn’t help me. I call back Thursday the 23rd, and the guy tells me there is no update and needs the tracking number. Once again I still couldn’t find it but I knew it had been delivered the week prior. He was much nicer than the rest of people I talked to, but still was unable to be much of help.

So here is Friday the 24th, and I have a voicemail from Passport Canada asking me to call them back, as the last guy I talked to realized I was pretty stressed and emailed his supervisor to tell him the situation. The supervisor called me and said to find my tracking number so that they could get this passport process done for me. I got home, searched my room and found the receipt (my bad, I threw it in the garbage). I called Passport Canada and told her I had received a call, gave her my file number for my application and told her they needed my tracking number. I gave it to her, she inputted it into the system, after checking the tracking and realizing it had been with them for 10 days now. In so many words, she basically told me that no one has opened it or begun to process it, aka it very well could be lost. With my birth certificate in it. Thanks guys. So she was also extremely unhelpful, as all she did was put the tracking number in and say ‘have a nice day’.

So here I am, wondering if I will ever get this application process finished, as the principal at the school in Marshall Islands patiently awaits my passport information to process my visa application and book my flight for me. I feel awful and that they probably think I am unorganized or slacking on it, but it is something so far out of my control at the moment. And I hate that.

And all the while I wonder, will I get my original passport with all my stamps back? Is it really necessary to withhold it from me because of a little damage? Or will I have to deal with the fact that I do not get to keep it?

Patience. I am needing some right now.

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