Canadian Social Insurance Number

July 22, 2014 — I obtained a Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) for my son today in Ottawa. Along the way, I learned a few things that could be helpful for parents in a similar situation.

First, a little background. I have lived outside Canada for more than two decades and my son was born outside Canada. He needs a SIN to apply to attend a Canadian university.

I called the Canadian government hotline (1 800 OCanada) and was told that I could apply for my son’s SIN without my son being present. That’s true. What the helpful lady on the phone didn’t tell me is that because I have been out of Canada for more than five years, my SIN was “dormant.” Without an active SIN, I couldn’t apply for a number on behalf of my child. This information is not on the government website.

To reactivate my SIN, I’d need my birth certificate. But there was little point in reactivating my SIN, because I don’t plan to return to Canada in the short term.

My son is over 12, so he can apply for a SIN on his own. I was told that the only document required was his Canadian citizenship card. However, my teenage son’s citizenship card was issued when he was a newborn. Today, he looks nothing like he did as a newborn, so the lady behind the counter needed to see current photo ID confirming his identity.  This information was also missing from the government website. Fortunately he had ID. The preferred form of ID is Canadian passport.

I had also hoped to get a SIN for my teenage daughter, who also hopes to attend university in Canada at some point. The gentleman behind the counter advised us not to get a SIN for her until she was just about to apply for a university place (or return to Canada), because it is easier and faster for the government to issue a new SIN than reactivate an existing one.

The process of getting a SIN for my son took about 15 minutes.

The Canadian government’s SIN site is here.