Because I travel across an international border by air, I require a passport. And there's a funny rule about passports. Countries sometimes require your passport to be valid for six months in order to admit you. And I don't mean that some countries do and some countries don't. I mean that the same country, i.e. the United States will sometimes admit you with a passport that is close to expiry, and sometimes not.
Some people say, "so why don't they just add six months to the expiry date, or subtract them, or something, so the date on the passport really matches when you can use it." The thing is that you can get back to your country, I assume, with one day left on your passport, but you can't get out. The country that is taking you doesn't want to risk you getting stuck there because you stayed past the expiry date on your passport and now your real country won't let you in.
That sounds kind of unlikely to me. "I'm sorry, you were a Canadian yesterday, but now you're not, so you can't come back." Canadian citizenship doesn't expire. You can't even renounce it. The government does not recognize renunciation of citizenship if you, say, burn your passport in a public act of protest or become a citizen of a country that requires you to swear revokation of all other citizenships. You're a Canadian for life. So I suspect that if I were to turn up at a port of entry with an expired pasport, so long as it looked like me and hadn't been reported lost or stolen, that they would let me in. They might make a few phonecalls to verify my identity and possibly fine me. But I don't think they would leave me to wander statelessly forever in the airport.
But I'm not going to test that theory out. My last entry into the US was on a passport that had only four months left on it. It's time to renew. I would have done it earlier, but I needed it. To get a new Canadian passport I have to surrender the old one. And wait. I looked into doing it online.
They call it epass Canada. It claims to not support my browser. I look into that. They officially support Firefox 1.0.6, so I'm betting it will work fine in 3.0.5. There's the usual online service stuff: Choose a userID not already in use. Provide the answers to some terrible user security questions, such as "the name of an important person to you" and "an important date." In the end, after all that, it's not so much an online application as an online form. I have to print it out and bring or mail it in the normal way. Mail will take too long. It won't be done before I have to go back to work.
Taking it in and waiting six weeks for normal processing will take too long, too. But for an extra eighty dollars I can get the renewal process accelerated to two business days, so I opt for that. I get my photo taken and notarized by a photography store. You're not allowed to take your own photo anymore. It has to be a commercial photographer. I stand in two different lines, and pay my extra fee, which was reduced thanks to some calculation by the agent. I overhear a guy who has lost his medical card and had his driving licence taken away ask how he can get a passport. They seemed to have a procedure for him. There's a uniformed guy in a corridor who appears to have been hired expressly for the purpose of telling people nicely that they're in the wrong place. See, there's a preline and then there's the real line. Despite the labyrinth of frustrating procedures, everyone, including the guy who does nothing all day but tell people they're in the wrong place, is very friendly and polite. If you know someone who works on the front line providing passports to Canadians, please tell them "good job!" If you know someone involved in the back office bureaucracy providing passports to Canadians, tell them "Good job on staff training! Now please do something about the procedures!"
Application process done, I leave. When I come back in two days the passport is all ready for me. My photo looks distinctly green, not just my hair, but my skin. Everyone is, for some reason. There's even a piece of paper that comes with the passport explaining that that's normal. I suggest, as I'm signing on the little square where you have to sign but you're not allowed to go outside the lines, that it's too bad you can't apply for a new passport but keep the old one, then just come in to make the exchange once the new one is ready. THe reply is that "It's against the law to have more than one valid passport at a time." Sure, I understand that. But I'm not asking to have more than one at a time. I just want them to get mine ready for me before I have to surrender the one I'm using. This won't get fixed, because Canadian government officials, who would have to be affected in order for them to believe this was a problem, probably get their passports express updated as an internal service.
But I have a new passport. And my photo is really very green. I'm good for another four and a half years, as long as I don't run it through the laundry.