Maya Hirschman started lining up outside a Passport Canada office in London, Ont., hours before most people start their day jobs, but nine people were already ahead of her.
"I was there at 4:45, which was about half an hour later than I'd planned to get there," said Hirschman, who on Tuesday arrived in the parking lot of Cherryhill Village Mall with a cushion and a book.
Early last month, Service Canada returned to pre-pandemic service in hopes of meeting a surge in demand for passports, but the long queues and hours-long waits have not subsided.
Hirschman discovered people hoping to renew or apply for a passport had started lining up at 4 a.m.
She has plans to visit friends in Michigan in the coming weeks, and knew to arrive early at the passport office because her friend recently tried to apply for a passport, and after waiting hours, was told she wouldn't be processed and to return before 5 a.m. the next day.
"I took that to heart. And I pretended that I was lining up for a band back in 1997," said Hirschman, who like others shared her experience on social media.
Canadian passports issued:
From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021: 363,000.
From April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022: 1,273,000.
Since April 1, 2022: 360,000.
Total forecast for 2022-2023: 3.6 million to 4.3 million applications.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said, "Service Canada recognizes that an increase in demand for passport services has resulted in lineups and longer wait times for service."
The Passport Canada website offers guidance on how to approach the application process:
If you're travelling within 45 days, it's advised you line up at the nearest office with proof of your travel plans.
If the trip is more than 45 days away, you won't require proof of a trip and can book an appointment.
In May, Passport Canada hired 600 new employees to help process passport applications. The emailed statement from ESDC said, "Despite longer processing times than before the pandemic, for the week ending June 12, 2022, 72 per cent of Canadians who apply for a passport currently receive their passport within 40 working days.
People queuing up in middle of night
On Thursday morning, Payam Ebrahim arrived at the passport office at the Cherryhill Village Mall in London at 2:30 a.m. to beat the rush. His cousin, Hassan Jamal, joined him at 3 a.m.
"I'm trying to go on vacation and my passport expired in March," Ebrahim said.
The two want to travel to Los Angeles in August.
"I want to experience the nice beach weather. I want a change of scenery," said Jamal.
After being turned away the day before, Dawson Handy, 20, arrived Thursday a little after 4 a.m., driving an hour from Clinton to get to London.
"It's not my preferred wake-up time, but given the circumstances, you have to get up at the crack of dawn," he said.
Handy hopes to get to a big country music festival in Ohio, one that's been on his to-do list for two years.
"It's nice to just get out, travel, see the different culture even if it's just Ohio," he said.
In total, Hirschman spent six hours at the Canada Passport office and was told her passport would be ready by June 28, though there are no guarantees, she said.
"Then they're going to pop it in the mail.
"I could have paid an extra $20 to come pick it up, but if I don't have to go back to Passport Canada for another decade, that's great," joked Hirschman.
People have been sharing their experiences on TikTok: