Expired passports insufficient identification... for a passport

A man trying to renew his passport to attend a conference in Sweden questioned:

  • Why he had to provide additional identifying information;
  • Why an expired passport was not sufficient identification even though it was provided by a competent federal authority; and
  • In what circumstances the Passport Office could refuse a document issued by a competent federal authority.

The complainant was opposed to providing a health card, firearms permit or driver’s licence as proof of identity, arguing that Canadians are under no legal obligation to hold any of these documents and requiring any of them was both a violation of the Charter and the Privacy Act. The man also objected to providing his employer’s address or that of any educational institution he attended in the past two years since either requirement would effectively preclude retired or unemployed persons from obtaining a passport.

Finally the man claimed that the Passport Office’s demand for at least two references from people other than family members made it difficult for those, like himself, whose ill health or physical disability limits their contacts. He also argued that family members should not be automatically excluded as references.

The privacy investigator met Passport Office staff to review the requirements. The power to issue a passport comes from exercising Royal Prerogative not a particular law. The Passport Office (a Special Operating Agency of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade), collects the passport information under the authority of an Order in Council Canadian Passport Order which gives the Minister the power to prescribe which forms will be used before issuing the passport. A third page was added to the application following September 11, 2001 to satisfy the department’s concerns that the process was secure. The third page asks for addresses during the preceding two years, as well as for references.

Since a passport establishes the identity and citizenship of the bearer abroad, its validity is heavily dependent on the accuracy of the applicant’s statements. Confirming the information with references who have known the applicant for at least two years helps substantiate its accuracy. However, applicants who cannot provide such references can complete form PPT 132-Declaration in lieu of guarantor and may also be able to name a family member in some circumstances.

The Passport Office confirmed that it cannot accept either an expired passport or Canadian birth certificate as supplementary identification because both were issued under less rigorous rules and can be forged. The office now demands the additional information to support the accuracy of the applicant’s statements, and help avoid circulation of false passports. Applicants can use expired passports as proof of Canadian citizenship but not as a secondary piece of identification.

Our Office concluded that the Passport Office has the legal authority to collect the additional information to confirm the applicant’s identity. The intent is not to impose draconian restrictions on applicants but to give the Passport Office confidence in the identity of the bearer and to help maintain the security of Canadian passports.

The complaint was considered not well-founded.

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