Know the rules and protect your passport

by Ron Pradinuk . Apr 14 2018
Ron Pradinuk / Winnipeg Free PressYour passport is among the most important documents you possess.

Ron Pradinuk / Winnipeg Free Press

Your passport is among the most important documents you possess.

I received an email from a traveller who felt it was important Canadians become more aware of their passport entry rules, particularly those who are dual citizens.

The woman, a British-Canadian dual citizen, was refused boarding because of a Canadian passport rule imposed more than a year ago.

“If you are a dual Canadian citizen used to travelling to or transiting through Canada by air with a non-Canadian passport, you will no longer be able to do so as of November 10, 2016. You will need a valid Canadian passport to board your flight,” the rule states. “If your country needs you to enter and exit that country using a passport issued by its government, you will still need a valid Canadian passport to board your flight to Canada. Make sure to carry both passports when you travel.”

She is 68 and her husband is 75. This was a traumatic incident for them and they want others in similar dual passport situations to be fully informed.

Passports are the lifeblood of travellers. There are a multitude of rules that many people may not be aware of, while clearly stated on our government’s website (visit bit.ly/2GWnYqi).

Children’s passports

There have been numerous reports of families being denied boarding for vacations because one of the parents had signed their child’s passport. Reports as recent as last year highlighted a case where a woman’s young daughter’s passport was rendered invalid because the mother had mistakenly signed it, thinking that was what she should do.

Not only did they not get to their vacation, but there was no insurance coverage available to which they could apply for a refund — and the tour operator almost certainly will show no financial sympathy.

Clearly stated, “Children under the age of 16 can sign their own passports, but if they do not, leave the signature block on page three blank. If you sign it on behalf of the child the passport will be invalid.”

Since some countries hold diametrically opposite policies, Passport Canada suggests families carry copies of the Canadian rules — and I would have the website link handy for local foreign officials to quickly check on their own more easily.

Protect your passport at all times

Your Canadian passport may be one of the most important documents you own, but it also holds tremendous value to thieves.

Ours is among the most respected passports in the world and — if stolen — sells well on the underground market.

Reapplying for a passport can be an arduous process.

If it has been stolen overseas, you will have to go through a multitude of serious questions, which must be backed up as much as possible by proof, before you are granted a new one.

And should you apply for yet another for any reason, lost or stolen, the process will become even more arduous. Passport Canada will dig even deeper to make sure there have not been any fraudulent actions relating to that loss.

Canada’s passport security doesn’t see a difference between lost and stolen passports. In both cases, you don’t know where your passport is and someone could use it for false purposes.

In both cases, when you report your passport lost or stolen, Passport Canada will confirm your identity by asking for identification. Only the passport holder (or legal parent or guardian for a child) may report a passport lost or stolen.

Law enforcement and border agencies will be informed so no one else can use your passport for travel.

Many questions about the circumstances of the loss or theft will be asked. If you recover your passport after reapplying, it will be too late — the original one will have been cancelled.

When you are on a trip, it is best to put your passport in a locked safe. And when you need to carry it for identification, I recommend you keep it isolated in a waist wallet, or other similar unit.

Reapply if your passport is damaged

You could be denied entry into a country if your passport is not in good condition. Passport Canada suggests you reapply for another one with the return of your existing document. Reasons to replace your passport include removal of pages, unauthorized markings, tears in one or more pages, exposure to water or humidity, chewing marks from a child or pet, change of the information and/or photo, separation of the cover and inside pages — as well as other forms of damage.

Passport pages and validity

I was extremely happy when the 10-year passports became available. As a frequent traveller, since passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the expected return day, it seemed I was always applying for a new one long before the expiry date.

However, the one downfall of the new 10-year options is that, while more pages have been added to the new ones, extra pages cannot be added to an existing passport. I try to control which pages my passport is stamped when I enter countries, with the view of getting several visits on one page.

This is not always possible. It is important to be aware some countries require at least one or more clean pages. South Africa, for example, requires two clean pages.

It is up to the traveller to make sure these pages are available so as to eliminate any possibility of being denied entry over what might seem a meaningless issue.

Canadians have a right to be proud of what their passport represents. Hopefully these few tips will help in insuring travellers can use them whenever they need to for entry into other countries and then re-entry back home again.

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pradinukr@shaw.ca