Proposed Passport Renewal Changes May Sacrifice Security

18 September 2015

In an effort to speed up passport issuance and renewal in Canada, the federal government plans to initiate an all-new online application process this November, according to documents obtained in a CBC investigative report. As much time as the process might save, however, it could also open the door to forgery, fraud and identity theft.

This autumn’s changes would no longer require applicants to return old passports after online renewal — even if they remain valid for six more months, according to the CBC story. Instead, citizens will be expected to render these travel documents invalid by cutting off their corners.

Canada’s current policy requires old travel documents to be returned with applications for new ones, after which they are canceled both electronically and physically in the passport office. Documents are then securely destroyed or returned to applicants.

While forgoing the need to return passports allows people to more quickly and easily renew their documents, it goes against the department’s own internal recommendations for consumer safety. CBC’s investigation highlights a 2014 report from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) that states: “establishing or authenticating identity and preventing fraud are two of the reasons for returning previous valid Canadian travel documents.”

Even though old passports would be canceled in the system, they would look like valid passports — complete, in some cases, with active expiry dates.

This would not only give canceled passport holders the ability to travel to countries that do not share data on canceled and expired travel documents with Canada, but it would also give them the tools to “create two identities both supported by genuine travel documents,” according to the CIC report.

When contacted by CBC News, Sonia Lesage, a Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman only said, “it would be inappropriate to comment on any policy before it has been finalized.”

While the new process for online applications would not take effect until November 1, and could see some amendments before its implementation, it is important to consider how the updated passport protocol could affect you. Luckily, while the CIC did identify several risk factors in allowing old passports to escape destruction, you are in control of what happens to your own passport. If you renew your passport online and choose to keep your old one, it is extremely important to render it visibly invalid. Many people like to keep their passports as a souvenir of their travels, which is perfectly safe when done correctly.

If you would like to keep your passport in one piece, the CIC suggests cutting a few centimeters off of the top right corner of every page. This way, even if your passport is stolen, nobody will be able to pass it off as a valid travel document.

Others prefer to incorporate their passports into scrapbooks of their time abroad. Typically, the pages containing airport stamps are most appealing for these projects, and the identification page is torn out of the rest of the book. While some may wish to cut their picture out as a keepsake as well, we suggest shredding this page before throwing it away. Not only does it it contain your contact information, but it also lists biometric information such as your height, weight and eye color, which skilled fraudsters can use.

If you are worried about the security of your personal data, identity protection services like Identity Guard will monitor and alert you to certain types of activity that may indicate fraud.