Do you need a Social Insurance Number (SIN)?

Typically if you want to work in Canada or have access to government programs and benefits it is necessary to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN).      The SIN program is governed by sections 138 to 141 of the Employment Insurance Act and Section 89 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.

The SIN is a 9 digit confidential number assigned to each person by the Government of Canada through Service Canada.   It cannot legally be used by anyone else and you are responsible for protecting your SIN.

The first number of the SIN is the province of registration:

1       New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland
2-3   Quebec
4-5   Ontario
6      Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
7      British Columbia and the Yukon

Social Insurance numbers which begin with the number 9 (nine) are issued to temporary workers who are neither Canadian citizens, nor permanent residents.   These SINs are temporary and expire and must be renewed in order to continue to work in Canada.

Here is a list of common uses for your Social Insurance Number:

  1. Your employer
  2. Your tax preparer to prepare your personal return
  3. Financial institutions such as banks and brokerages
  4. Canada Pension Plan benefits
  5. Employment Insurance
  6. RESP – Registered Education Savings Plan and Canada Education Savings Grants
  7. Canada Child Tax Benefit
  8. Canada Student Loans
  9. GST and HST claims
  10. Social assistance benefits
  11. Veterans benefits and programs
  12. Workers Compensation benefits
  13. Child support payments

You should only provide your SIN if it legally required and you should not use it freely as proof of identity, you should provide a different proof of identity.   Using your SIN as identification puts your personal information at risk and could be used for identity theft.    A person possessing your SIN can easily apply for a credit card or open a bank account all in your name and you may be held responsible.   You should not carry your card with you and keep it in a safe place such as a safety deposit box or file cabinet.
Additional information about the SIN is available through Service Canada or by calling 1-800-206-7218 (select option “3”)


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Sam Seidman, CPA, CA, LPA
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