My letter to my local Canadian High Commission...

The Canadian High Commission
IBM Building #14-00
80 Anson Road
Singapore 079907

May 20, 1999



Dear Madam,

I recently had my passport extended at the High Commission in Singapore. The passport was extended until "04-01-20". Pause for a moment to consider what this date means. It would be understandable if you didn’t read this as being the date that falls five years after 20 Jan 1999, the issue date of my passport.

I have asked the High Commission to re-issue the extension by indicating the date in full as it appears on the front of the passport. I believe the date format is otherwise confusing.

I was disappointed to be denied this simple request. I can’t help but feel this is unnecessary bureaucracy.

On page two of my passport, the original date of expiry reads "20 JAN/JAN 2000." No doubt it is written out as such so as to limit confusion at passport control. Note that the format is day-month-year.

Applying the same day-month-year assumption to the extension date, my passport is valid until 4th January 2020. In fact, when I asked the receptionist at the High Commission office how to interpret the extension date, she confirmed my extension was until the year "two thousand and twenty."

Had my extension date fallen a few months later to 4th April 2004, I could have felt confident that "04-04-04" would not be misread. Even an expiry of 4th Jan 2004 ("04-01-04") is fortuitously clear. And so, if this number format is deemed sacred, I would ask that my validity period be shortened by 16 days to achieve this result.

I have already learned that you will argue this is the International Date Format. In fact ISO 8601 indicates that the International Date Format is CCYY-MM-DD ie the four digit year in full followed by month and day.

I believe any abbreviation of this is a false economy. You are saving a few digits of type where clarity could save me significant time by the avoidance of further inquiries and investigations into the validity of my passport.

At the very least, if the Canadian Passport Office is to consider itself Y2K compliant, it should print out the year using four digits.

For the next four years this extension date will be as important to me as the original expiry date on my passport. Would you please therefore show the same care and consideration by writing the date out in the original format used?

If this matter is outside your control then I welcome you to forward this request to the relevant authorities in Ottawa.

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours Faithfully,