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I like to travel. I don’t go anywhere internationally, but I like to get away, mostly back home to visit my friends and family. And eat pizza and bagels. As an American in Canada, in order to travel, I need my US passport and a special document known as the Permanent Resident (PR) Card. Technically, I can leave Canada without this card; I just won’t get back in.

US Passport and Canadian Permanent Resident Card

My Travel Documents

Both of these came up for renewal recently. Warning to other permanent residents in Canada: while renewing my passport was a breeze, having to renew the PR card has proved nothing short of miserable.

The forms needed are no longer available at local Service Canada offices nor are you able to order them by calling the Service Canada Permanent Resident Card Call Centre. You are now directed to their recently re-developed website; their very confusing new website. Trying to navigate this website is like finding your way in the dark without a flashlight.

My mother, known in these pages as my Brooklyn Mama, also had her documents up for renewal. She’s a complete technophobe who hates using the internet. “I’m not doing it this way” she insisted. She decided to call the Service Canada number. They informed her that while she cannot pick up forms nor have them mailed to her, she can go to a Service Canada office where they will print off all the forms she needs. “Ha”, she said to me. “I told you someone would help me”.

She returned to proudly show me the forms while telling me the Service Canada rep had a terrible time finding which forms to print out. I then had to tell her she was one form short. You need an additional form which you only find out about after you print out the first. Why they don’t just include all the pages as one form, I have no idea.

After we went through the forms, we realized there isn’t a form that allows you to pay at a bank. Back to the website I went. You have to pay online I told Brooklyn Mama. She hates to pay anything online, doesn’t trust that stuff she always says. If you don’t wish to pay online, you can ‘order’ a form to bring to the bank. How do you order that form Mom wanted to know? On the website. However, it says you can call the call centre number if you have trouble ordering it. She proceeded to call the Call Centre, only to be told you can’t order a payment form over phone, despite what the website says. Mom agreed to let me help her pay online.

Now it was time to gather all the documents needed. You must also send a check list with the items checked off. Where do you get this list? That famous website of course. Note: The website must also be referred to for details of the required documents since the forms do not include instructions.

Required documents:
Both forms- As mentioned above, not easy to find, but-check
Receipt of payment- Also see above-check
Two recent photos- Had this taken care with photo with passport-check
Photocopy of main identity document-Just got my new passport-check
Proof of Residence-Still have tattered but original landing papers-check
Two Secondary identity documents-Drivers license, tax documents- check
Additional residency documents-???????

What do they mean by additional residency documents? I double checked the website. They would like photocopies of every page of every passport I have held in the last five years. I just got a new passport so that means I have had two, each having about 25 pages. I don’t travel internationally. None of these pages have stamps. They don’t even have anything indicating they are my passports. They wanted me to send copies of 50 blank pages?

OldPassport

Blank pages of my old passport.

My New Passport

Blank pages of my new passport.

I called that Service Canada number once again to ask if they really wanted me to send 50 pages even if they’re blank. Yes, they replied every page even if empty. I still can’t believe they mean that. On the website I was able to find an alternative number and decided to give that a try. “How did you get this number” the voice on the other end asked? From your website I answer. Well, she cannot help me but advised if I go to a Service Canada office they will be able to answer any questions I might have in filling out these forms.

I decided to make a trip down to one of these offices, with my Brooklyn Mama in tow. Finally an explanation we thought. We arrived at this office to be told by a smiling worker, that they no longer deal with Permanent Resident Cards at this or any other Service Canada office. They no longer know how to fill out these forms. He did attempt to provide an answer to my question about the 50 blank passport pages. Well, he said after some thought, “maybe they want to see that your passport didn’t need to be stamped”. He is very sorry he can’t be of much help. But he offered one more piece of advice “this might help” as he handed us a sheet of paper “it’s a link, to our website” he said.

Post Script: I sent in my forms without the copies of the blank pages, sending alternative identification. Will have to see what happens. Either I won’t be going anywhere or I won’t be back.

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