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Huge passport wait times spawn ‘freelance line holder’ industry

The long wait lines outside the Service Canada office across the province create opportunities for some people to make extra money on the side.

If you are looking for a side hustle that is flexible and has a minimal workload, Passport Line Holder might be the job for you.  

The catch is you have to stand outside for hours, rain or shine. 

The Richmond News previously reported on long lineups of would-be travellers waiting outside Richmond’s passport office for up to five hours. Some had to take a day off work to be there. And last week one woman waited four hours only to be told to come back another day because her travel was not considered urgent. 

But what is a massive frustration for some is a financial opportunity for others. 

Advertisements and postings for “freelance line standers” have been popping up on Facebook Marketplace and websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist.  

For a flat rate of $50 per hour, Martin, a Richmond-based line holder, who conveniently lives just next to Richmond’s Service Canada office, posts online that he’s more than happy to arrive early and get any traveller a place among the first 10 spots. 

Therefore, you can “have a good night sleep and feel fresh at the front of the line,” reads his ad.  

Rob Huang, who describes himself on Kijiji as “someone who can show up at any hour and is willing to wait in line at any passport office,” told the News that his side hustle has been in high demand recently.  

For his first client, Huang showed up at Vancouver’s passport office in the wee hours. 

“The first client I helped wasn’t sure how long the wait list was, so he asked me to go there for 2 a.m. I waited until 10 a.m. or 11 a.m,” said Huang.  

But it paid off, he noted.  

“I made around $400 easily,” said Huang, adding that while it’s not stable work, it’s ideal for a part-time student like him.  

For anyone considering joining the passport line holder business, Huang has some tips: bring snacks, water as well as extra portable chargers and tablets.  

The toughest part is waiting outside, said Huang. Once in the Service Canada building, everything becomes easier, he explained.  

“You can put your stuff down and go to the washroom and come back.” 

The News reached out to Service Canada for further comments but hasn’t got any replies. 

Service Canada’s website suggests travellers who don’t have travel plans in the next two weeks to call them instead. 

“We’re experiencing very high call volumes right now. Wait times are longer than usual. If you do not have travel plans in the next 2 weeks, we suggest you wait to call us,” read the website.