Getting a Social Insurance Number in Canada (SIN Canada) is one of the first tasks you’ll need to do upon arrival. This is because you cannot legally work in Canada without one.
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.
Its purpose is similar to the PPS number in Ireland, the National Insurance Number in the UK, or the Tax File Number in Australia.
When you start a job, you are required to provide your SIN Canada to your employer.
There is no fee to apply for a Social Insurance Number in Canada.
Where can I get a SIN Canada?
You can apply for a Social Insurance Number in Canada 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 Visa in Canada, will need to provide either their Canadian work permit, or their Canadian study permit which indicates that they may accept employment.
Temporary residents will be issued with a Social Insurance Number in Canada beginning with ‘9’. The confirmation of SIN Canada letter will have an expiry date which matches the end-date on the immigration document.
You may apply for a SIN Canada by mail if you live more than 100km 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 SIN Number?
Your SIN Canada is given to you during your visit, on a printed sheet of paper, called a Confirmation of SIN Number letter.
Previously, plastic cards were issued with the Social Insurance Number in Canada 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 mail applications, you will receive your SIN Number within 20 days from the receipt of your application.
Protecting your SIN Canada
Your Social Insurance Number in Canada is confidential. It could be used maliciously to obtain private information about you, so it’s important to only disclose your SIN umber 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 Canada is being requested, offer an alternative proof of identity, and ask to speak to a manager if this is not accepted.