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Applicants can now apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) online. Online applications were introduced in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Full details about the online application process are below.

Getting a Social Insurance Number in Canada is one of the first tasks you’ll need to do upon arrival. This is because you cannot legally work in Canada without a Social Insurance Number.

Why do I need a Social Insurance Number in Canada?

Your SIN number is a nine-digit number used to identify you by government agencies. You will need it to pay taxes, or access government programs and benefits, like Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents, who are 12 years of age or older, may apply for their own SIN number.

The purpose of a Canadian Social Insurance Number is similar to the National Insurance Number in the UK, the Tax File Number in Australia, the Social Security Number in the US, the PPS number in Ireland, and similar personal employment numbers in a range of countries.

When you start a job, you are required to provide your Canadian SIN to your employer. There is no fee to apply for a Social Insurance Number in Canada.

In addition to needing a Social Insurance Number for employment in Canada, the Social Insurance Number in Canada is used for filing personal taxes and obtaining benefits.

How to apply for a SIN number in Canada for international students

You can apply for a SIN online, in person, or by mail. In order for international students to qualify for a SIN, your study permit must indicate that you are eligible to work in Canada. Otherwise, you may get what’s called an Individual Tax Number (ITN).

What documents are required for SIN number for international students?

To apply for a SIN number as an international student, you will need your study permit and a passport. If your name has changed, you will need to provide a legal document that contains the name that you wish to use on your SIN application.

Where can I get a Social Insurance Number in Canada?

You can apply for a Canadian SIN in-person, online, or by mail (in certain circumstance). Online applications were introduced in 2020 as a response to the temporary closure of Service Canada offices due to COVID-19.

In-person Social Insurance Number application requirements

In-person applications can be by gathering the documentation you need and bringing these to your nearest Service Canada office.

Permanent residents will need to show their Permanent Resident card. A Confirmation of Permanent Residence letter is acceptable within the first year of permanent residency, when accompanied by a passport or other valid photo identification like a driver’s licence.

Temporary residents for example, those who arrive on a Working Holiday, will need to provide either their Canadian work permit, or their Canadian study permit, which indicates that they may accept employment in Canada.

Temporary residents will be issued with a Canadian Social Insurance Number beginning with ‘9’. The confirmation of SIN letter will have an expiry date which matches the end-date on the immigration document.

Online Social Insurance Number application requirements

In order to apply for your Canadian SIN online, you need a primary document proving your status in Canada, a secondary document verifying your identity, and a third document showing your proof of address. Once you have these documents, you can apply online through the government’s SIN website.

Acceptable primary documents for permanent residents include your permanent resident card (PR card) or your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) if you landed less than one year ago. Acceptable primary documents for temporary residents include a valid work permit or study permit.

Acceptable secondary documents for verifying your identity include a passport (Canadian or foreign), a provincial or territorial ID card or driver’s licence, or another piece of government-issued ID.

Acceptable documents for proving your proof of address include correspondence from the government, a financial institution, an educational institution, or a bill addressed to you.

If you’ve changed your name recently, you may need to provide additional documents. As well, if you are applying on behalf of a child, you may need to provide additional documents.

Social Insurance Number applications by mail

You may apply for a SIN number in Canada by mail if you live more than 100 kilometres from your nearest Service Canada office, or if extenuating circumstances prevent you from presenting in person and another individual cannot submit an application on your behalf, or if you are applying from outside Canada. Learn more here.

How long does it take to get a Social Insurance Number in Canada?

If you apply in-person, your Social Insurance Number is given to you during your visit, on a printed sheet of paper, called a Confirmation of SIN letter.

Previously, plastic cards were issued with the Social Insurance Number printed on them. This practice stopped in 2014, though the cards themselves may still be used where required by anyone who still has them.

For online applications, the government has not provided details on processing times.

For mail applications, you should receive your SIN Number within 20 days from the receipt of your application.

How do I find my SIN number in Canada?

You can either find you SIN number for Canada on your SIN card, confirmation letter or on relevant documents from the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). Service Canada used to issue SIN numbers in plastic card format, however presently, they are issued in paper format. Check your records for either your card or confirmation letter.

How do I get a replacement SIN?

To replace your lost SIN, you should visit your local Service Canada branch. If you have all the correct documents and everything is in order then Service Canada will give you your SIN number on the spot.

If you live more than 100 km from a Services Canada branch or cannot visit a Service Canada branch because of a special situation, you can make a SIN request by mail. But, before mailing your SIN request, you must first get permission from Service Canada by calling 1-800-206-7218 (select Option #3).

It’s important to note that you will only be issued a brand new SIN if you were the victim of identity theft or fraud.

What documents do I need to get a new SIN?

To apply for a Canadian Social Insurance Number, you must provide a valid primary document that proves your identity and legal status in Canada.

If you are applying for someone else, you may need to provide additional documents.

Protecting your Social Insurance Number in Canada

Your Canadian Social Insurance Number is confidential. It could be used maliciously to obtain private information about you, so it’s important to only disclose your SIN number when it’s essential to do so.

Employers, financial institutions, and government agencies will usually require your SIN number for legitimate reasons, which include setting up your income tax and benefit arrangements.

It is not illegal for private companies to ask for your Social Insurance Number in Canada, however it is discouraged. Examples where it is not required include property rental applications, credit card applications, subscribing to phone or internet providers, or applying to a college.

If you are unsure why your SIN number is being requested, offer an alternative proof of identity, and ask to speak to a manager if this is not accepted.

More assistance for newcomers to Canada

Here are some of the essential things you’ll need to do during your first week in Canada.

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
Read more about Hugo O'Doherty
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