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How to Renew and Update your Social Insurance Number

Written by Jessica Steer
In Canada, there are some requirements you need to meet in order to work, live and study in the country. Even once you've become a temporary resident, there are other steps you must take. One of these steps is registering for the SIN program.
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    In order to accept employment in Canada, you need to have a valid SIN number. You also need it in order to access government programs and benefits. Often SIN numbers are given out in a paper format that never expires. That said, there are also plastic cards that are expired. If you have a plastic card, it will need to be renewed before its expiry date.

    If you received your SIN number after 2014, you likely don't have a SIN card, just a SIN number. However, just because you don't have a SIN card doesn't mean you no longer have to renew your number. You'll have to renew any time you apply for a SIN, and an expiry date is given.

    What Your SIN Number Says About You

    Your Social Insurance Number, also referred to as your SIN Number, is a 9-digit number that identifies you. It's used as a file number, account number and for data processing reasons. This number is individual to you; no other person has it. It helps to identify you for tax purposes, pensions and credit history. This number is important, contains sensitive information, and is only meant for certain purposes. This means you have to be careful who you share it with.

    In order to gain insurable employment and file your income tax return in Canada, you need to have a SIN number. You can apply for it when you turn 12 years old or when you immigrate to the country. Canadian citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents all need a SIN number.

    The main reason that everyone in Canada has a SIN number is to distinguish their identity. The 9-digit number puts you in the social insurance register along with everyone.

    Finding Your SIN Number Online

    If you're not sure of your SIN number, it's pretty simple to find online. All you need to do is sign into your CRA My Account. If you aren't registered for your CRA My Account or can't get in, you can also find your SIN Number on your:

    • Tax slips
    • Income tax return
    • Record of Employment
    • RRSP contribution forms

    You can also get a confirmation of your number by submitting an application to the CRA.

    Applying For A SIN

    There are a few different ways that you can apply for your SIN. One of these ways is to go into Service Canada. You can do this by filling out the online service request form and requesting an appointment. This can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency website. You can leave with your SIN number as long as you have everything you need at the appointment and everything is in order.

    You can apply online if you don't want to go into a Service Canada office. It's pretty simple; all you really need to do is submit the required documents and then wait. You can also send them in by mail if you prefer not to online. The documentation required depends on your individual situation and your legal status in Canada. Whether or not you receive approval will depend on if you meet the eligibility criteria.

    Getting a SIN with a Study Permit

    If you're an international student in Canada with a study permit, you can get a SIN number if you meet one of the following conditions:

    • Work off-campus or on-campus (as long as you're meeting eligibility criteria)
    • When you stop meeting the criteria, stop working

    As a temporary resident studying in Canada, as long as you have a SIN, you can work without a work permit as long as you meet the criteria outlined in paragraph R186 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

    Just like with foreign workers, this will be a temporary SIN number.

    Getting a SIN is difficult if your study permit expires within 30 days. You would then need to get a study permit extension to get your SIN. Once you get an extended study permit, you can apply.

    Checking Your SIN Number Status

    Once you apply for your SIN number, you are able to check your status. How long it takes for approval depends on how you apply. When you apply in person, you should be able to get your number right away; it's different if you submit a hard copy or online application.

    If you apply for your SIN number online, it should only take 5 business days from your application's receipt to be processed. If you provide an email address, you'll receive an email when the application is received, another once it's been processed, and an email if it doesn't meet the requirements. If you haven't received a decision after 10 business days, then you should contact the SIN program directly.

    When you apply via mail, as long as everything is correct, it should be processed within 20 business days from the time it was received. If, after 25 business days, you haven't received a letter or an update, that's when you should contact the SIN program directly.

    How to Renew

    You may be wondering why you would have to renew your Social Insurance Number. Not everyone has to, though. The main reason that someone would have to renew their SIN number is if there is a legal change of their name or gender designation. You will also have to renew if your SIN number expires. These are the numbers that start with a 9.


    Renewing your SIN online is probably the easiest way to do so. It's a pretty simple process and can be done on the Government of Canada website. You'll need to submit the following documents:

    • Proof of address
    • A primary identity document that will prove your ID and Canadian citizenship status
    • A second identity document
    • A copy of an accepted supporting document

    Once you've done that, all you have to do is wait for an update.

    For Migrants and International Students

    As an immigrant, you can apply and renew online, at your local Service Canada Centre, or through the mail. We've already gone over how to renew online, but how would you apply through Service Canada or the mail? The process involves the same conditions and the same steps, but the documentation is slightly different. You must ensure you supply both a primary identity document and a supporting document. A secondary identity document is only required when you renew in person or online.

    Valid Documents When Applying and Renewing

    When you're filling out your SIN application, there are certain documents you have to provide. You must provide the correct documents when you're submitting in order to get the fastest decision. Let's take a look at what's accepted.

    Document Examples
    Primary Identity Document Birth Certificate, Canadian Citizenship Certificate, Certificate of Registration of Birth Abroad
    Secondary Document Passport, Driver's License, Canadian Provincial or Territorial ID Card, Government Issued Photo ID
    Proof of Address Bank Statement, Bill, Lease Agreement, Mortgage Statement, Credit Card Bill
    Supporting Document Legal documents stating: Legal Name Change Certificate, Divorce Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Adoption Certificate, Request to Amend Record of Landing, Status Verification Document

    Do You Have to Renew?

    What do you do if you're working or going to school in Canada and your SIN expires soon? Well, don't worry; it's pretty simple to reapply and continue working or studying. This applies to foreign workers and international students that have SIN numbers. Whether you're temporary workers or permanent, a number that expires will need to be renewed if you're continuing to work.

    Your SIN will expire based on the date provided on your immigration documents. These dates will need to match, so both will have to be renewed. You don't have to worry, though. As long as you apply before the expiry date, you don't have to cease working or going to school while you're waiting for a decision. You must also remain in the country while this process is happening.

    While a decision is being made by the IRCC, you'll notice your status will be changed to maintained status (formerly known as implied status). Once the IRCC authorizes the renewal, then you'll receive your new immigration documents. With these new documents, you can apply to change the expiry date on your SIN card so the expiry dates will match. You will not receive a new SIN number; that'll stay the same.

    You don't always have to worry about renewing your SIN number. If you do, though, the process is relatively straightforward. If there's no expiry date on your SIN number, then that number will stay with you for life.

    An Expired SIN Number

    When your SIN expires, and you don't renew it, this means you aren't eligible to work in Canada anymore. You would have to reapply in order to resume your work permit. You're still able to file your income tax return, though, if you haven't already done so. If you have a SIN that will expire and intend to keep working, it's recommended that you apply for an extension before your expiry date.

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