Applying for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a straightforward and mandatory step if you want to work during your Working Holiday adventure in Canada.
What’s a “SIN”?
A SIN is a unique number
A Social Insurance Number (SIN)—“Numéro d’assurance sociale” or “NAS” in French—is a unique nine-digit number that identifies Canadian citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents when they apply for benefits and services from government programs. It’s also used for tax reporting purposes, so you will need to provide it to your employer when you start working.
If you have an IEC work permit (Working Holiday, Young Professionals or International Co-op), you will be issued a SIN that begins with a “9.” It means that you are a temporary resident.
A SIN is a confidential number
Watch out for identity theft!
You will have to share your SIN with your employer and your financial institution when you open a bank account (especially if you open a savings account, since interest must be reported on your tax return—the bank will issue a T5 statement at the end of the year).
However, landlords or phone carriers aren’t supposed to ask for your SIN. Take a minute to read Who can ask for your SIN to know when you have or don’t have to provide your SIN.
A SIN is mandatory to work in Canada
Employers are required to request your SIN and record the number within three days of your start date.
Note that if you’re an unpaid intern with an International Co-op work permit, you don’t have to apply for a SIN.
A SIN doesn’t give IEC work permit holders access to health benefits
The SIN is often used to apply for benefits and services from government programs. However, as an IEC work permit holder, you have the right to work in Canada but you are not covered by the provincial/territorial health care systems. Basically, if you need medical care, you have to pay for it.
This is why the Government of Canada makes it mandatory to buy insurance coverage. Your policy must cover medical care, hospitalization and repatriation and be valid for the entire duration of your stay. Budget about €350 for one-year coverage and just over €700 for two-year coverage (departing from the European Union).
Applying for a SIN as a temporary resident
Where to go
You may apply by mail if you live over 100 kilometres from a Service Canada centre or in a specific situation that makes it difficult to apply in person. Call 1-800-206-7218 and select option 3 to determine if you’re eligible to apply by mail… but it’s probably best to apply in person as soon as possible and before heading to a very remote corner of the country!
When to apply
In short, as soon as possible after landing in Canada.
Note that you can’t apply for your SIN before coming to Canada since you need to show your work permit, which will be issued when you go through immigration at the airport or land border.
Documents to provide
The SIN application form is no longer required if you apply at a Service Canada office. However, if needed, you will find copies at the airport, at most Canada Post outlets and in Service Canada offices.
As a temporary resident, you must provide your work permit (Working Holiday, Young Professionals, International Co-op, etc.) and your passport. Students must provide their study permit. For more info, read Documents needed.
A secondary supporting document will be required if the name you use is different from the name on your main ID document. Check the list of Acceptable supporting documents.
What address should I use?
If you’ve just arrived in Canada and don’t have a long-term address yet, feel free to provide the address of your hostel, hotel, Airbnb, friend, etc. Most newcomers are in the same boat!
Process and fee
Two pieces of good news—there is no fee to apply for a SIN and it will be issued on the spot if you have all the required supporting documents.
As of March 31, 2014, Service Canada no longer issues wallet-sized red and white plastic cards for SINs, which are only provided in paper format.
SINs and change of immigration status
Applying for a SIN as a permanent resident
Permanent residents also have to apply for a SIN. Different supporting documents are required, you can see the full list here.
If you were a temporary resident and had a SIN beginning with a “9,” you must apply for a new SIN as well—congrats, this one is for life, no expiry date!
Your SIN after getting a new work permit
As a temporary resident, your SIN is valid only until the expiry date indicated on your work permit. When your work permit expires, so does your SIN.
If you get another work permit, your SIN will remain the same but you still have to go to a Service Canada office for a record update:
“If your SIN begins with a ‘9,’ you must update your SIN record to ensure that the expiry date always corresponds with the expiry date on your document from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada authorizing you to work in Canada. Once your SIN record has been updated, you will receive a SIN with the new expiry date. Your previous SIN (whether it is a paper format or plastic card) is no longer valid and should be destroyed in a secure manner.”
Lost SIN? Found a SIN? Other questions?
Check out After you receive your SIN—the page is full of advice for all SIN-related matters.
These links are also useful:
- Social Insurance Number explained by Service Canada
- Fraud and identity theft: Do’s and Don’ts to protect yourself and your SIN