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Canada Insurance Number: What it is and how to get it

Canada Insurance Number: What it is and how to get it

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is one of the first documents you need to get when you arrive in Canada.

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number used to identify you to the Government of Canada. You need it for employment, taxes, access to government programs and benefits, such as Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan. Citizens and permanent residents of Canada and temporary residents can get a SIN. People as young as 12 years old can have a SIN.

There is no fee for applying for a social security number.

Where to get SIN in Canada

You can apply for a Canadian SIN in person, online, or by mail (under certain circumstances). The ability to apply online was introduced in 2020 due to the temporary closure of public service offices (Service Canada) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Personal filing

In-person applications can be made by collecting the necessary documents and bringing them to the nearest Service Canada office.

Permanent residents must show their Permanent Resident Card (PR card). If you don't already have one, you can provide a Confirmation of Permanent Residence letter with your passport or other photo ID (such as a driver's licence) — but only for the first year of your permanent residency in Canada.

Temporary residents, such as those coming to the country on a work or student visa, need to present a Canadian work or study permit that says you can work.

Getting a SIN in Canada

Applying online

To apply for a SIN online, you will need a document proving your status in Canada, proof of identity and a document proving your address. With these documents, you must apply through the Government website.

Proof of status in Canada can be a Permanent Resident Card (PR card) or a Confirmation of Permanent Residence letter if you arrived in Canada less than a year ago. For temporary residents, it may be a work permit or study permit.

Identity documents include a passport (Canadian or foreign), provincial or territorial ID card, driver's licence or other government-issued document.

Documents to prove your address of residence in Canada can be

  • letters or documents from the government (federal, provincial, territorial, foreign);
  • letters or documents from a financial institution (bank statement, credit card statement, mortgage agreement);
  • rental or tenancy agreement;
  • invoices (including from the telecom operator, cable operator, utility provider, etc.)
  • any document issued by a school, college, or university that lists your address;
  • an employment contract that lists your address;
  • A letter from an organization or agency confirming your mailing address.

If you recently changed your last name, you may need additional documents. If you are applying on behalf of a child, you will also need additional documents.

Submitting an application by mail

You can apply for a SIN by mail in several cases:

  • you live more than 100 kilometres from the nearest Service Canada office;
  • circumstances do not allow you to apply in person and another person cannot apply on your behalf;
  • you're applying from outside of Canada.

Read more here.

Getting a SIN in Canada

How long does it take to get a SIN

If you apply in person, you will get your SIN during your visit on a printed piece of paper called a "Confirmation of SIN Number Letter.

Previously, plastic cards with a number printed on them were issued, but this practice was discontinued in 2014, although the cards themselves can still be used.

If you apply online or by mail, you will receive your SIN within 20 business days of applying. If it is more than 25 business days and you want to know the status of your application, contact the SIN program representative.

Protecting your social security number in Canada

The SIN number is confidential. It can be used to get personal information about a person, so it is important to disclose your SIN only when necessary.

Employers and financial and government agencies usually require a SIN number for legitimate reasons in order to establish your income tax and benefits.

Private companies may also ask for a Social Security Number, but it is not recommended. You do not have to disclose your SIN when applying to rent property, apply for a credit card, sign up for telephone or Internet service providers, or apply for college.

If you are unsure why your SIN is being requested, offer an alternative ID and ask to speak to a manager if the ID is not accepted.

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