Social Insurance Number for Newcomers

For newcomers like you, securing the proper documentation in Canada is important to legally do anything. For instance, being eligible for health services requires a health card from your province. Also, to drive, you will need to get a Canadian driver’s license from your province.

But, first, one of the very first things to get upon your arrival is your social insurance number or SIN. This 9-digit number is one of the ways the government can identify you. It tells the Canadian government who works and pays taxes. It also identifies who could receive benefits from the government.

For a piece of identification this important, you have this article to give you the right information and guidance.

Why You Need One

As mentioned earlier, you need a SIN to work. In Canada, all workers need to pay their taxes. The Canadian government identifies its taxpayers through their SIN. A SIN serves as your tax identification. This means that you need this number to do your taxes. For this reason, your employer will require you to obtain one.

Because government contributions are made with a SIN, your SIN is also important to receive government benefits like pensions. Also, you could benefit from some of the Canadian government’s social programs with it.

A SIN also partly identifies your province of residence. The area of registration could be seen in the first digit of the SIN. It starts from 1 to 8. And, each number corresponds to a certain group of places in Canada. For example, a SIN that begins with “1” means that it could be from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, or Prince Edward Island. 

And, a SIN also serves as proof of your status. Unlike the SINs of permanent residents and citizens, the social identification numbers of temporary workers and international students begin with “9”. It has an expiration date similar to the expiration of the visa.

This used to be issued as a plastic card. But, as of 2014, the Canadian government stopped issuing cards and started sending people their confirmation of SIN by mail. So, without a card, not only would you be saving the environment (no plastic), but you will also be protected from identity theft.

Who Can Apply For One?

From students to citizens, everyone who is physically present for a long time in Canada could apply for a social identification number or SIN.

who can get SIN card

As an important piece of identification for employment, this is something many working permanent residents and citizens already have. If you will be staying in the country on a temporary work visa or a student visa, you are also eligible to apply for one.

By “everyone physically present for a long time in Canada”, does this also mean children? Yes! To qualify, a child only needs to be at least 12 years old.

So, to reiterate, you can apply if you are:

  • A citizen
  • A permanent resident
  • A temporary worker with a work permit
  • An international student with a valid student visa
  • A child over the age of 12

How to Apply For a SIN

You can apply for your SIN at the Service Canada office closest to your location. But, besides in-person applications, other alternative ways of applying are also available. Besides getting a SIN in person, you may also apply by mail or online. Getting a SIN is free of charge!

A. Applying In-Person

This could be done in any Service Canada office. You just need to bring your documents. But, the necessary documents could vary depending on your status.

For Permanent Residents

Permanent residents need to present the following documents:

  • Permanent resident card
  • Confirmation of permanent residence
    • You may present this instead in the first year of your stay in Canada.
  • Passport
  • Government-issued photo ID (e.g. driver’s license)

For Temporary Residents

Temporary residents include temporary workers and international students. Temporary residents need to present the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Canadian work permit (for temporary workers)
  • Canadian study permit (for students, and it must say that work can be accepted)

Canadian social identification numbers for temporary residents begin with “9”. And, it has an expiration date similar to that of the work or study permit.

After applying personally, you can immediately receive a printed copy of your SIN.

B. Online Application

If unable to apply personally, you could choose to make your application online. You could visit this site to lodge your application.

You will need at least three pieces of documentation. You will need one that proves your status in the country. Also, you need a piece of personal identification. Lastly, you also need a document that shows your address in the country.

Proof of Status

  • Permanent resident card
  • Confirmation of residence (if you arrived less than a year before the date of your application)
  • Work permit
  • Study permit (it must say that you could work)

Proof of Identity

  • Passport
  • Health card (if you have one)
  • Canadian driver’s license (if you already have one)

Proof of Residence or Address

  • Any bill with your name and address stated
  • Letter from a bank with your address
  • Any letter from the government sent to your area of residence

C. Postal Application

To apply by mail, you will need an accomplished application form. You could download this form from this site.

Once you have accomplished the form, you need other documents as well. These need to be the original copies and not photocopies.

For Citizens, Permanent Residents, and Registered Indians

An original copy of any single document below is acceptable:

  • Certificate of birth in Canada
  • Certificate of Canadian citizenship
  • Certificate of registration abroad (if you registered before 1977)
  • Certificate of Indian Status and foreign birth certificate (for registered Indians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Confirmation of permanent residence
  • Record of landing (if you landed in Canada before June 28, 2002)
  • Verification of landing from the IRCC or CIC

For Temporary Residents

If you are a temporary resident, you may provide an original copy of one of the following:

  • Work permit
  • Study permit

Supporting Documents

In almost all cases, an accomplished application form and one of the documents above will suffice for your postal SIN application.

However, in situations where the name in one of the documents above and the one on your Canadian ID’s is different, you need other documents to prove your identity. These include:

  • Any certificate of marriage
  • Any certification of divorce
  • Any certificate that indicates a legal change of name
  • Notarial adoption certificate (for children adopted overseas by Canadian parents)

Gather these documents and mails them to:

Service Canada

Social Insurance Registration Office

PO Box 7000

Bathurst NB  E2A 4T1


For applications done by mail, the processing time is 20 business days from the day you applied. 

“What If I Lose My SIN?”

It may not happen to you. But, what if you lose your SIN card or confirmation document?

If it does, you could start by looking for other documents that bear your number. Besides the letter given to you when you applied for one, you could also locate it on your tax returns or any letter from the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).

And, because your employer has it, you could request it from him or her.

Aside from this, you could also get a replacement by heading to your local Services Canada branch. Have some of your documents with you, and they will hand you your replacement number on the spot!

Another option is to request a replacement SIN by mail. You just need to call Service Canada’s number (1-800-206-7218, and select option #3). After that, you could mail your request. Easy!

“Should I Protect My Social Identification Number?”

can i share my SIN

If stolen or known by others, your SIN could be used to acquire your tax refunds. A person could also use your SIN to work illegally. This could make you liable to pay taxes even if it was not your income.

So, treat your SIN like a PIN – it is confidential!

You should only disclose your SIN to the following:

Unless it is to any of the parties above, you are not legally required to give out your SIN.

And, here is a list of other things you can do to protect your SIN:

  • Keep it at home in a place only you know of
  • Never present it as a piece of identification
  • Do not use it for bank transactions
  • Do not provide it via e-mail or phone. You can disclose it over the phone to people who are legally allowed to know it.
  • Burn or shred unneeded documents that have your SIN
  • Do not use it to take out a mortgage or loan
  • Offer to provide a different piece of identification when asked for your SIN
  • Do not use it to avail of any service (e.g. internet, cable, pest control)
  • Review bank and credit card statements for any unknown or suspicious transactions

Who to Inform in Case of Identity Theft

If you do notice some transactions you cannot recall making, there is a chance that someone is using your SIN. You can notify the following of this:

  • The police – you have to provide your name and SIN
  • The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center – call 1-888-495-8501
  • Equifax Canada (1-800-465-7166) and TransUnion Canada (1-877-525-3823)
  • These are the 2 major credit bureaus in Canada. You need to inform these two bureaus that you are a victim of identity fraud.
  • Service Canada – you need to bring identification, proof of identity theft, and the police report you filed.


Service Canada is famous for its straightforward and hassle-free procedures. For this reason, many Canadians barely notice the process of applying for a social identification number.

And, as long as you have the right documents with you, getting a social identification number will be just as easy for you!

Choose Canada Magazine

Each member of our team at Choose Canada Magazine has been in Canada for over five years, and has helped dozens of people worldwide find their life in Canada.

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