RR RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #1126/01 1641252
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131252Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5876
RUEAHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHDC
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001126
STATE FOR WHA/CAN and CA/PPT DHS FOR INTERNTIONAL AFFAIRS (Brown and Fontela)
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ECIN ECON SOCI PGOV PREL KHLS CPAS CA SUBJECT: Ottawa to make it easier for Canadians to get passports
1. Summary: In a relaxation from previous policy, Canadians will be able to renew their passports without submitting proof of citizenship or a guarantor declaration after August 15. The "guarantor" process will also be simplified for first-time applicants so that most citizens can act as guarantors; now only professionals in certain occupations can do so. The new application measures, announced June 8, are intended to simplify the process, and to allow Passport Canada to cope with increased demand triggered by WHTI. Currently, mail-in applicants must wait an average of 10-weeks for their passport. Foreign Minister MacKay said he would ask Secretary Rice for more relief for Canadians from the requirements of WHTI. Ambassador Wilkins released a press statement on June 8 noting, for the record, that DHS/CBP continues to allow Canadians to fly into the U.S. based on other evidence of identity and citizenship. End summary.
2. The new application procedures for Canadians, that are aimed at easing a huge backlog of passport applications in the wake of announcement of the WHTI, include two important provisions: as of August 15 a simplified passport renewal policy that will allow Canadians who already hold a valid passport, and who meet eligibility criteria, to be able to renew it without submitting proof of citizenship or a guarantor declaration; as of October 15 a new guarantor policy that will allow most Canadian adult passport holders to act as guarantors for first-time applicants. The new measures also include a series of "Passport Clinics" to be held across the country with a special focus on border areas and areas far from large urban centers. At these Passport Clinics Government of Canada (GoC) officials will be available to answer questions from the public about applying for a passport, review passport applications to ensure they are complete, and accept completed applications for processing. There are now about 170,000 applications being processed in Canada. For those who have applied by mail, the wait averages 10-weeks, some six weeks above the norm before the flood of applications received in the wake of WHTI implementation.
3. As part of a broader effort by the GoC to modernize Canadian passport services and increase the capacity of the Passport Office, the government also pledged to hire hundreds of new passport staff and extend office hours in some cities. An additional 65 post offices and government service centers will now also receive passport applications. According to Foreign Minister MacKay, the government has ruled out extending the validity of the Canadian passport to ten years from five. In a press conference last week, he noted that "many countries are reducing the length of their passports to five years from ten." (Comment: We do not know which specific countries the Foreign Minister was referring to, because the worldwide trend seems to be moving from five-year to 10-year passports. End comment.)
4. Earlier on June 8 after the announcement by the State Department to suspend the current rule requiring Americans to carry passports for air travel to and from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, NDP MP Libby Davies demanded that Ottawa press the United States to also suspend passport requirements for visiting Canadians. Davies said Canadians are seeing delays in acquiring passports that are just as long as those that Americans face. In response, Foreign Minister MacKay said, "We are disappointed that thus far it (the USG) has not QMacKay said, "We are disappointed that thus far it (the USG) has not extended that to Canadians, and we are taking this matter up with officials in the United States in the hopes that we can bring about some greater alleviation with respect to the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative." He promised he would call Secretary Rice to discuss the matter.
5. To clarify the USG policy Ambassador Wilkins issued an Embassy statement late on June 8 noting that "the U.S. Customs and Border Protection made clear that it has and will continue to exercise its current authorities in unique circumstances to allow Canadians subject to the WHTI requirements into the U.S. based on other evidence of identity and citizenship." The statement added: "I would still recommend to Canadian citizens that you get your passports, but under this provision, the U.S. government has shown its willingness to be flexible for Canadian air travelers."
6. Ambassador Wilkins spoke with Foreign Minister MacKay on June 11 to reiterate USG flexibility for Canadian air travelers. MacKay was appreciative and indicated they were studying the possibility of giving Canadians a receipt for their passport application which would allow for equal treatment. MacKay said that Canadians who apply in person get a letter of receipt but those who apply by mail do not. Currently MacKay thought that 80% of applicants had this letter-receipt. Both privately and publicly, MacKay has said the new flexible rule would help an ailing Canadian tourism industry in making it easier for Americans to come to Canada.
7. DCM spoke with Greg Goatbe, Vice President of CBSA and Canadian lead on WHTI to ask if Canadians were willing to accept US passport
OTTAWA 00001126 002 OF 002
application receipts for travelers here. Goatbe said that all US citizens needed were their birth certificate, but when told that applicants handed in their birth certificates to get their passports, Goatbe said he would "study the matter" and get back to us.
8. Comment: Post will continue the public outreach and dialogue regarding WHTI requirements for Canadian citizens.