Renewing A Canadian Passport In Amman Is Tougher Than Renewing A Jordanian One

Parking in Shmesani has always been a horror, one that has been multiplied in recent months and years with the construction of the near by Abdali district and subsequent infrastructure work. The Canadian embassy has never been a great diplomatic institution in Jordan and being a dual citizen I have often, over the years, run in to problems with the embassy, the least of which is parking. Pulling up to the embassy the other day during mid-morning, I parked haphazardly in a temporary spot, with the belief that I would only be a few moments given the fact that I was merely going to hand in documents for renewing a passport. I was right. It was actually less than a few moments. At 10:50am, the guard outside informed me that the embassy was winding down operations for the day, specifically for passport renewals. The hours I was given were 9 to 11am, which seemed absurd to me. The guard, perhaps sensing my frustration, asked where I’d come from. What does it matter, I asked. I might as well be coming from Zarqa if it’s mid-morning and you’re already closed.

I had to come back the next day of operations which was nearly four days later.

Today, I tried again. Double parked again, thinking this shouldn’t take too long. This time I was wrong. It took over an hour and a half to go from standing outside in the street to being body checked, to turning off my cell phone and handing it in, to waiting in a room where there were a maximum of 4 other people. This last revelation almost knocked me off my feet. After waiting for so long downstairs amidst a line of no more than 5 people, then taking the elevator the fourth floor, I was half expecting the place to be packed with citizens. But four people?

A total of two employees were serving these four people, and by the time they got to me it was well over 40 minutes. Having got there at 9:40am, I half expected the clock to turn 11 and for someone to come and tell me that that was it for the day. In the end, I walked in to a little box of a room with a window and an employee. There was so much bullet-proof glass between us at that moment that even sound waves had difficult penetrating, and I couldn’t hear a thing she said.

It turns out, after all this frustration, my application was incomplete. The employee kept telling me to “read the instructions” and “you have the read the instructions”, as if I was illiterate. I had read the instructions and was confident the things she asked for were non-existent but at this point, there’s nothing to argue after being there for so long. Beyond the scope of the embassy’s operations (or lack there of) renewing a Canadian passport abroad is a bureaucratic mess. The list of requirements and the attention to minor details is so absurd it will make you want to curl up in the fetal position and cry while you rock back and forth on the ground. Searching for a guarantor, a person the Canadian government considers to be important, such as a doctor or lawyer, is always a nightmare, but actually easier to do in Jordan than in Canada where few people know you personally, and even fewer are willing to sign any official documents. Every Jordanians knows at least one doctor or lawyer in their family or circles who’s willing to put a stamp on things. One of the mistakes I had committed was not having my guarantor stamp and sign both a photo and the application. He had forgotten to stamp the application.

I left abruptly, took the elevator down to the ground level, handed the security woman the key she had given me for the phone locker, only to have her tell me to get it myself. Suddenly the phone was no longer a serious threat. Naturally, to make matters worse, I went out to find my car had been ticketed.

This process is actually no different than in past years. The only altered variable is the worsening parking condition and the embassy seems adamant about remaining in one of the most congested areas of the city, in a building that packs them like sardine cans. Years ago you had to literally scan the skies for the Canadian flag to identify the sardine can of a building. Now, you just search for the roadblocks.

And then experience them.

About a month ago, I decided to renew my Jordanian passport, which was on the brink of expiration. I had heard that the passport department had made some serious improvements but thought to myself that such reports were probably exaggerated, or, like all things Jordan, a government department had merely elevated itself from a D status to a C status. Waking up early, I decided to beat the traffic, specifically in hopes of finding a parking spot in the equally congested Jabal Amman area. Luckily I found there were several parking lots available, and I parked quickly. Stepping in to the department a man by the door asked me what I needed and I told him I wanted to renew a passport. He gave me a ticket with a number and asked me to go sit.

I sat. I waited for 15 minutes. They called my number. The employee took my papers, verified my identity, spoke to me clearly behind a non-bullet proof window, stamped my papers and asked me to go pay. I walked 5 meters, paid 20JDs and was given another number and told to wait in another room. I waited for another 15 minutes. A man walked out and called my name amongst others, and I had a new passport.

Bureaucracies are always interesting. Each country has its own laws and regulations, and some just have more than others. Ironically, Jordanian security is much more globally recognized than the Canadians, and yet getting in to the embassy as a citizen of that country was like breaking in to a fortress. And one would actually respect the bureaucracies if they ensured that, say, Israeli secret service weren’t forging Canadian passports to carry out assassinations on foreign soil. The process would be admirable even. But alas, it is far from true.

It is nonetheless interesting to see something in the public sector that Jordan is actually better at than a first world nation. One could argue that the Jordanian passport has less market value than a Canadian one, but, nonetheless, it was process that mattered at the end of the day. And in this, the Canadians have failed miserably.


  • LMAO-ing here – refreshing to hear that it is easier to do business with the American govnerment than the Northern neighbors!

    I think that the American Embassy system of appointments actually makes the difference; make your appointment online, change or cancel online – show up on time with the documents (no guarantors necessary) and your name is called exactly on time. I still complained about having to park so far away and go through so much security, but security was fast and friendly. I’ll stop complaining now. :-))

  • The Canadian consulate in Jordan SUCKS, the location SUCKS. The employees working there have no respect for people. Didn’t have to deal with them after I finished my immigration process but I am sure it would be a nightmare from my experience when I was finalizing my immigration.

    By the way, the rules about the Guarantor have changed in Canada; the person does not have to be a doctor or a lawyer etc, etc, it has to be any Canadian Citizen who’s known you for at least 2 years who is over 18 years old. Not sure if this applies abroad but this makes it much easier here.

  • Why don’t you just give up your CA citizenship then. Seems to be such a burden.

    Where the employees as the CA Mission, Jordanian or Canadians?

  • This is not a valid comparison you made here. If you want to compare, you should compare getting your Jordanian passport renewed in Canada vs. getting your Canadian passport renewed in Jordan. Likewise, you could also compare getting your Canadian passport renewed in Canada vs. getting your Jordanian passport renewed in Jordan.

    As a citizen of both the U.S. and Jordan, I have found it easier to renew my American passport in Jordan than it would be to renew it in the U.S. It is, however, pretty hard to make it to the embassy on time if you are coming from a far distance. I have no idea how people from faraway cities do it.

  • @anon: thanks for the comment, but I’m not convinced that giving up or surrendering should be a solution to anything.

    @fayez: systems of complaints are really broken unless there’s some sort of wasta involved. standing in line (once again) the other day, there were at least 4 people that were turned away in a huff because they were coming to apply for a visa only to be informed that they have to be on a daily list consisting of 30 spots. they all argued that there was no such information from the embassy about this, and that their website claims there are no appointments.

    @salam: valid point, however, i was trying to put this in the context of a third world country and a first world country. or, in other words, how one first world country operates like a third world country, and how a third world country operates like a first world country. but your point is well taken.

  • The Canadian Consulate in Amman is a shame to the Canadian government (and I really hope a Canadian official is reading this), starting with the horrendous location and ending with the rudeness of the people working there. They deal with ‘customers’ (and in this case I’m referring to those working on the 4th floor who deal exclusively with Canadian citizens) as if they were refugees seeking political asylum.

    The way the employee marks your application with her red pen to indicate incomplete information as if you were in 3rd grade is a total turn off. And having been manually searched and your phone turned off and handed in along with any flash memory you may be carrying with you, why do they still need all that bulletproofing?

    About six months ago I had to go there to have a Canadian passport issued for my 1 month old baby. I was told that I had filled out the wrong application and had followed the wrong process. I needed to fill out the Citizenship Application and wait a year and a half for that to be processed and THEN I may dare apply for the passport. I told the lady that I lived in Europe and thus needed the passport to be able to take my baby with me. She said that I had to attach a copy of a confirmed ticket with the Citizenship Application to prove my traveling plans so I could be given a “temporary passport. Oh and the length of the process was unknown so I might have to lose the ticket.

    I thanked her (though I probably shouldn’t have) and left. Applied for a Jordanian one and traveled.

  • Naseem, I was reminded of this post last night when I was told that a new Canadian consulate will be built in Amman, somewhere between the 4th and 5th circle.

    What I heard is that it will have no parking spaces for visitors for security reason. They want people to use public transport to go do their business there.

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