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Canadians Can Get 'Partial Refunds' For Late Passport Services, But Here's Why Most Won't Qualify

Canadians are sometimes entitled to refunds when service standard are not met.

Trending Editor
A Canadian passport. Right: A Service Canada sign.

A Canadian passport. Right: A Service Canada sign.

Hundreds of thousands of people have recently experienced long wait times for Canadian passport applications and renewals, but getting a refund for delayed services is a little complicated.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), as many as 283,200 Canadians have recently faced delays when it comes to passport services between April 2021 and 2022.

Of those, as many as 215, 992 people received their travel documents up to ten days late, while 67, 208 received theirs late by 11 days or longer.

Right now, the passport service standard is 10 business days for in-person services, 20 business days by mail and the end of the next business day for urgent services. Express services are expected within 2 to 9 business days.

An update to Canada's Services Fees Act — brought in by IRCC in 2021 — says that when an individual pays for a government service and the service standard is not met, they are entitled to a partial refund.

In these cases, a partial refund is issued by July 1 of the following fiscal year via the original payment method, or via cheque for payments that were not made online.

However, many of the almost 290,000 Canadians who faced passport service delays are unlikely to qualify for any sort of money back, due to the nature of what has been causing the backlog.

The policy states, "Should it be determined that the service standard in relation to a fee paid is not met primarily due to exceptional circumstances, the fee payer is not eligible for a remission."

As the delays and backlogs for passport services are related to the COVID-19 pandemic — which is considered to be an "exceptional circumstance" — most will not qualify for a refund.

Among the circumstances considered to be "exceptional" are things like natural disasters, unexpected system disruptions and "emergency situations that cause a closure of an office, a reduction in the service capacity or a surge of applications outside the department’s control."

In a statement shared with Narcity, IRCC said, "Under normal circumstances, remissions would have commenced during fiscal year 2021-22. However, due to the pandemic, remissions have been postponed under section 4.2.2 of the policy."

It continued, "This is due to the fact that the Remission Policy does not apply to applications processed in unusual or exceptional circumstances that may impact regular operations, result in an unforeseeable and significant influx of applications, or result in loss of staff, loss of facility (partial or full), or loss of communications or network capabilities."

Per a spokesperson, exceptional circumstances are in effect for passport applications received between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022 which means Canadians are not eligible for a refund.

Per the Toronto Star, applicants who got their passport ten-or-less days late would get a 25% refund under different circumstances, while those who waited 11 days or longer would get 50%.

It means IRCC would have had to fork out over $11.2 million in refunds for those who received substandard service.

Since April, Service Canada offices all over the country have been slammed by an "unprecedented surge in demand."

On July 7, the feds laid out an enhanced triage system that prioritizes people who have urgent travel needs. They also committed to training new, specialized staff and modernizing Canada's passport system, which aims to reduce the passport backlog "significantly" by the end of the summer.

IRCC told Narcity, "Service Canada is examining and implementing every possible option to expedite intake and processing of applications to help Canadians get their passports in a timely way."

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

    Helena Hanson
    Trending Editor
    Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Canada's Trending Desk focused on major news. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.
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