Reacting to potential threats to its security, the US government announced on June 6, 1940, that as of the first of the next month, Canadians would require passports and visas to enter the US. Ottawa reacted quickly by expanding the passport staff to 113, setting up additional offices, and creating a special eight-page passport specifically for those traveling to Canada’s southern neighbor. Canada passport traveling USA

 

 

The development of the Canadian passport is part of a much longer history that also intertwines with that of the British Empire. Although documents providing the bearer with permission to travel either inside or outside of a political entity have long existed, the first systematic use of passports began in France in the era of the Revolution. Initially, the passport was an effort to control the movement of people within France and, as such, aided the police force in its efforts to keep track of those deemed a threat to the state. Next, the new revolutionary assembly brought in a requirement that merchants and foreigners seeking to leave the country had to obtain passports from their local districts in the case of the former and from the ambassadors of their countries of origin in the case of the latter. For some in the revolutionary assembly, however, the passport remained a controversial and repressive measure. Canada passport traveling USA

 

 

For example, well into the late 1940s, married women in Canada were not allowed their own passport, but, like children, they had to be included in their husband’s documents. In an authentic sense, the passport has never been a neutral document. The final essential inspiration for the modern passport era was World War I. Before the war, severe international discussions about moving toward the elimination of passports had occurred. The conflict’s outbreak quashed these efforts as several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, dramatically tightened documentary requirements. In the case of the latter, the requirement that British citizens carry identity cards was enacted.

Brief Canadian Passport History Canada passport traveling USA

The story of the Canadian passport is entwined with Canada’s history, both as a colony of Great Britain and as a neighbor of the United States.

Before 1862, Canadians, as British subjects, could travel freely to and from the United States without passports. To travel to Europe, however, a Canadian had to obtain a British passport from the Foreign Office in London. Those who were not British subjects by birth could still go to the United States with a certificate of naturalization, which was issued by local Canadian mayors mainly for voting in municipal elections.

During the American Civil War, however, authorities in the United States wanted more reliable certification from people living in Canada. In 1862, the Governor-General, Viscount Monck, introduced a centralized system for issuing passports. For the next 50 years, a Canadian passport was a “letter of request” signed by the Governor-General.

It isn’t easy to trace the history of Canadian passports in the first few years after Confederation because so few were issued. The financial statements of the Secretary of State in 1878 record an annual passport revenue of $50. Since passports then cost $1 each, we know 50 must have been issued. Over the next few years, annual revenues varied between $35 and $50. Canada passport traveling USA

In those early years, passports were issued as single-sheet certificates and stamped with the official seal. In 1915, Canada switched to the British form, a ten-section single sheet folder printed in English only.

A series of international passport conferences (1920, 1926, and 1947) led to several changes to the Canadian passport. The 1920 conference recommended that all countries adopt a booklet-type passport, which Canada began issuing in 1921. Another recommendation of 1920 that all passports were to be written in at least two languages, one of which was French, led to the first bilingual Canadian passport in 1926. The 1920 conference also recommended that passports should be valid for at least two years and preferably for five. It is interesting to note that, since 1919, Canadian peacetime passports were already valid for five years, with the possibility of a five-year extension.

Between 1947 and 1970, Canadians could only apply for passports by mail to Ottawa. Requirements were elementary, and applicants claiming birth in Canada did not have to provide proof.

However, within a few years, the increased number of lost and stolen passports pointed to tighten requirements. This need was reinforced by the escape of James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., using a fraudulently-obtained Canadian passport. Canada passport traveling USA

The Royal Commission on Security in 1969 recommended much more stringent application requirements. It also supported plans to open Passport Canada offices across Canada for better service to the public. In 1970, three Passport Canada offices opened—in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver—to accept and process applications submitted in person. There are now 34 offices across Canada, which process more than 70 percent of the over 4 million Canadian passports issued each year (2014).

Machine-readable passports, introduced in Canada in 1985, meet the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The new format was smaller, and the bearer’s personal information, photograph, and passport details were laminated to prevent tampering. In the special machine-readable zone, personal information and passport details were repeated in a format that could be scanned at checkpoints.

In 1991, additional security features were built into the Canadian passport, and more stringent processing requirements were put in place. By 1993, a new style of the passport was introduced that contained unique features to prevent replication or alteration.

In order to protect the integrity of the passport and to remain current with global security technology, Canada is a regular participant at ICAO conferences and is recognized as a leader in technological developments in passport design and processing systems. Canada passport traveling USA

At the turn of the century, Passport Canada invested in new technology to modernize its operations and create a more secure passport introduced domestically in 2002 and abroad in 2006. This passport featured a digitally printed photo of the bearer embedded into the identification page of the booklet, holographic images, and a second hidden photo of the bearer that could only be viewed under ultraviolet light.

On July 1, 2013, Passport Canada started issuing a new, even more, secure electronic passport, known as the ePassport. This new-generation passport has an electronic chip embedded in the book to provide more excellent

protection against fraud and tampering and contribute to domestic and international travel security.

From its simple beginnings as a letter of safe conduct, the passport has become the single most important international identity document a traveler can carry.

Source: Government of Canada

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