As a newcomer, applying for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) should be one of the top priorities on your to-do list when you arrive in Canada. Whether you’re a temporary or permanent resident, you’ll need a SIN to work in Canada and access government benefits and services.
Newcomers are often unaware of situations in which it is unsafe to share your SIN. In this article, we share information on how to apply for a SIN and protect it, so you can avoid unnecessary financial risks in Canada.
In this article:
- What is a Social Insurance Number (SIN)?
- Who needs a SIN in Canada?
- How can I apply for a SIN in Canada?
- Is there a fee to apply for a SIN in Canada?
- Documents needed to apply for a Social Insurance Number
- Can I start working in Canada before I get my SIN?
- How can I update information linked to my SIN?
- Who can I share my SIN with?
- How to protect your Social Insurance Number
A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number required to work in Canada, file income tax, or access government benefits and programs. Your SIN is unique and can be used as an identifier by government agencies.
All Canadian citizens, permanent residents (PR), and temporary residents require a Social Insurance Number to work in Canada or receive services and benefits from government programs.
If you’re in Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW), you’ll receive a temporary SIN. Your SIN will start with the number nine and have an expiry date that matches the expiry of your work permit.
You’ll need to share your SIN with your Canadian employer when they hire you. Be sure to apply for a SIN well before starting a new job to avoid delays in the onboarding process.
You can apply for a SIN using one of three options: online, in-person at a Service Canada Centre, or by mail.
Children aged 12 and above can apply for a SIN on their own. If your child is under the age of majority in your province, you can apply for a SIN on their behalf if you are their parent, legal guardian, or legal representative.
Applying for a SIN online
You can apply for a SIN online through the Government of Canada website. Newcomers to Canada must select the “First Social Insurance Number” option from the drop-down menu and fill out the form. You’ll need to upload digital copies of your original documents and will typically receive your SIN by mail within 15 days.
Applying for a SIN in-person at a Service Canada Centre
You can book an appointment at any Service Canada Centre to apply for your SIN in person. You’ll need to bring your original documents and will receive your SIN at the location.
Applying for a SIN by mail
You can fill out and print a copy of the SIN application form and mail it along with your original documents to the following address:
Social Insurance Registration Office
PO Box 7000
Bathurst NB E2A 4T1
Photocopies of your documents will not be accepted. You’ll receive your SIN by mail, along with your original documents, within 25 days of your application.
You do not need to pay any fees while applying for a Social Insurance Number in Canada.
The documents needed for your SIN application depend on your status in Canada. All the documents you provide must be valid, legible, and in English or French.
If your documents are in a different language, you must also submit an English or French translation of the documents, along with an affidavit or attestation signed by the translator.
Applying for a SIN as a new permanent resident
To apply for a SIN as a permanent resident, you’ll need to provide the following documents:
One primary identity document from the following list:
- Your Canadian Permanent Resident card.
- Your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), along with a travel document (such as your foreign passport), or a photo ID issued by a provincial or territorial authority (such as a Canadian driver’s license). Note that your COPR will only be accepted if you received permanent residence in Canada less than one year ago.
- Your record of landing, if it was issued before June 28, 2002.
One secondary identity document. Your secondary identity document must include your full legal name and date of birth. You can use one of the following:
- Your foreign passport.
- A Canadian driver’s license or other provincial or territorial ID.
- Any other ID issued by the Canadian government.
You don’t require a secondary ID document if you apply by mail.
You cannot use the same document as both primary and secondary identity proof.
Proof of address: If you apply for your SIN online, you’ll need to provide a document that confirms the address you list in your SIN application. You can use a document or attestation letter signed by a government, company, institution, or by your landlord or employer.
You don’t need to submit proof of address if you apply for your SIN by mail or in-person at a Service Canada centre.
As a newcomer, you can provide address proof for your temporary accommodation. If you apply by mail, you can also request that your SIN be mailed to a different address other than your own.
A supporting document, if needed: If the name on your primary and/or secondary document is different from the one on your SIN application, you’ll require a legal document stating your most recently used legal name.
Applying for a SIN as a temporary resident
To apply for a SIN as a temporary resident, such as a Temporary Foreign Worker or international student, you’ll need to provide the following:
One primary identity document from the following list:
- A valid Canadian work permit.
- A valid Canadian study permit that allows you to work in Canada.
- A valid visitor record that authorizes you to work in Canada.
- A diplomatic identity card or work authorization issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development.
The secondary identity, proof of address, and supporting document requirements are the same as for permanent residents. Refer to the above section for the full list.
Note that if you transition from a temporary resident status to a permanent resident status, you’ll need to apply for a new SIN, which will not begin with the number nine. You will then use the new SIN to file for taxes, payroll purposes, and more.
Applying for a SIN for your children
If your child is born in Canada, you can apply for a SIN on their behalf when you register their birth through your provincial Newborn Registration Service.
If you’re moving to Canada with your family and your child is a minor or dependent, you can apply for a SIN on their behalf. To do so, you must provide your own primary and secondary identity documents and proof of address (see the sections above on applying for a SIN as a permanent resident or temporary resident), as well as a primary identity document for your child.
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When you land your first job as a newcomer in Canada, you’ll need to share your SIN with your employer. Your employer will require your SIN to make payroll deductions and remit income tax and contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) on your behalf.
Ideally, you should apply for your SIN as soon as possible after arriving in Canada. If you received a job offer before your arrival and plan to start working soon after landing in Canada, you must apply for a SIN within three days of joining the organization. Once you apply, you can share the confirmation number with your employer and start working while you wait to receive your SIN.
You are responsible for keeping the information linked to your SIN up-to-date. To update your information, you must submit an application to make changes to your SIN record, along with the required documents. Like in the case of your original SIN application, you can do this online, in person, or by mail.
You should update your SIN record if:
- You need to correct an error on your SIN record.
- Your legal name has changed.
- Your citizenship status in Canada has changed.
- The expiry date for your immigration document has changed (such as in the case of a work permit or study permit extension).
You don’t need to revise your SIN record if your address has changed unless you’re still waiting to receive your SIN or confirmation of SIN letter.
Your SIN is a confidential document and you should only share it with the following:
- With your employer after you’re hired.
- With your financial institution (such as a bank or credit union) while opening an account that earns interest or income.
- With the government while completing your tax information, including income tax, Goods and Services Tax (GST), or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
- When accessing government benefits and services, such as the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), Child Tax Benefits, student aid, social assistance benefits, or worker’s compensation benefits.
Even if you’re asked for it, you’re not legally required to share your SIN while applying for jobs (before you receive an offer), rental accommodation, university or college, or for credit products, such as loans, credit cards, lines of credit, or mortgages.
Your Social Insurance Number is a confidential document and you should keep the following tips in mind to protect your SIN:
- Store your SIN in a safe place and don’t carry it around.
- Don’t use your SIN as an ID.
- Only share your SIN if you’re legally required to do so.
- Don’t share your SIN over the phone unless you’ve placed a call to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or other government agency that legally requires it. Never share your SIN over the phone if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the CRA, Service Canada, or another government department. It could be a scam.
- Don’t respond to emails asking for your SIN or other personal information.
- Carefully shred paper documents that list your SIN once they are no longer required. Note that you’re legally required to store your tax documents, such as T4 slips or income tax returns, for at least six years.
- Update your SIN record if your legal name, citizenship status, or status validity changes.
- Take immediate action if you suspect that your SIN has been compromised.
Why you need to protect your SIN
Sharing your SIN intentionally or unintentionally with unauthorized parties can have severe consequences. Unauthorized access to your SIN is an invasion of your privacy and your SIN may be used without your knowledge, potentially resulting in:
- Identity theft: If someone assumes your identity using your SIN as proof.
- Loss of government benefits or tax refunds: If someone applies for credit products or government benefits in your name or claims benefits or tax refunds you’re entitled to.
- Adverse impact on your credit history: If someone uses your SIN to apply for credit products or to commit fraud, it could have a disastrous, long-lasting impact on your credit score and history.
- Higher taxes: If someone uses your SIN to work illegally in Canada, you may receive a higher tax bill even though you haven’t earned more income.
How to report SIN fraud
If you suspect that your SIN has been used fraudulently, follow these steps to report the fraud:
- File a police report and get a copy: Your police report should include your name and SIN number.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: You can contact them to report SIN fraud through their website or by calling 1-888-495-8501.
- Contact the credit bureaus: You’ll need to let Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada know that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. Ask them for copies of your credit report and for information on adding a fraud warning to your credit file, so creditors can contact you before opening any new accounts in your name.
- Review your credit reports to identify creditors who’ve made credit inquiries you did not authorize: If you see credit inquiries from lenders you did not approach for credit, contact them and inform them of the issue. You should also ask them to decline or close any new accounts you did not request.
- Check your bank and credit card statements for suspicious transactions: Contact the financial institution if you notice any suspicious purchases, withdrawals, or transactions.
- Visit Service Canada to report SIN fraud: You’ll need to submit the police report, your primary identification document, and proof that someone has used your SIN.
What to do if I forgot my Social Insurance Number?
If you forgot your SIN, you can find it listed on your tax slips, income tax return, or record of employment. In case you don’t have access to these documents, you can submit an application to get a confirmation of your SIN.
If your SIN was lost or stolen, Service Canada will only issue a new one if there’s proof that your SIN was fraudulently used.
Whether you’re coming to Canada as a permanent resident, temporary foreign worker, or international student, you’ll need a Social Insurance Number to work here or apply for government benefits. As a newcomer, you should apply for a SIN as soon as possible and keep your personal information linked to it updated. Remember, your SIN is private and it is your responsibility to protect it, so you should only share it with others if it’s legally required.