Canadian passports have become such a hot commodity this holiday season that former government workers have been brought out of retirement to help deal with the increased workload at passport offices.

There have been long lineups in recent months as travellers try to beat an American deadline for passports for Canadians travelling to the U.S. by air.

Effective Jan. 23, 2007, all Canadians flying to the U.S. must have a valid passport.

Another factor, say Passport Canada officials, is the number of the five-year passports expiring after the upsurge in applications following the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001.

The lineups are especially bad at the Passport Canada office in downtown Vancouver.

David Williams, who works in the Sinclair Centre which houses the office, said when he got to work early last Friday, there were already people who had been there for hours.

"I got here about 6:30 in the morning and there were people already walking up the stairs to the passport office, there were people in the lobby waiting for the elevator, people sleeping in the lobby to the passport office. It was just incredible."

Williams added that in all his years working in the building, he had never seen that sort of backlog.

Passport Canada recommends that people apply for their passports by mail or bring them to a designated Canada Post outlet instead of going to one of the offices.

Copyright 2006 CBC