First Steps As a Permanent Resident in Canada

After you become a landed immigrant, you must apply for three very important pieces of IDs: a permanent resident card, a SIN card and a health card.

The Permanent Resident Card

This card will be the easiest to obtain, because you don’t need to apply for it! Once you become a landed immigrant, the officer at the entry point will ask you for an address and you will receive the card automatically, free of charge. And that’s it!

The Permanent Residence card is the proof of your status in Canada. It expires every five year.

You SIN Card

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9 digit number issued by the Canadian government that you need to work in Canada. It is very important that you apply for your Social Insurance Number card as soon as you can.

You may apply for a SIN card at any Service Canada Center. Permanent Residents in Canada will need:

  • The Permanent Resident Card issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, or
  • The Confirmation of Permanent Residence and visa counterfoil affixed to your passport

You will receive a SIN number right away if you apply in person. You will then receive the card by mail within ten days.

You may also apply by mail, by downloading the application form and sending the supporting documents. It will take about 15 business days.

There is no fee to apply for a SIN number and to get a first SIN card.

Be aware that identity thief is a serious problem, so take care of your SIN number. Only provide you SIN number when it is legally required, for example, by your employer, financial institutions and tax services. You do not have to give your SIN number to complete a job application, or to apply for credit cards.

The Health Card

Health Cards are issued by the provincial or territorial government and allow access to insured health care services. Each province or territory manages its own health system.

Because this is a provincial matter, regulations and requirement vary. Generally speaking, as a permanent resident, you are entitled to a range of health care services paid for by your provincial health ministry. Typically hospitalizations, surgeries, visits to your general practitioner, emergency visits etc are covered, which means that you just have to show your health card when using the services, and that you will not pay. Services which are not generally covered are eye exams, dentistry and cosmetic surgery. If you wish to be covered for additional services, you may buy private health insurance.

Everyone must have their own health cards, including babies.

Note that you may not be eligible for health care right after you arrive. Some provinces require a waiting, during which you will not be covered. For example, in Ontario, coverage normally becomes effective three months after the date you establish residency in the province. New and returning residents are encouraged to purchase private health insurance in case you become ill during the waiting period.

In order to maintain your insurance coverage, most provinces requires that you make your primary residence in that province and that you meet physical presence requirements.

These are the most important IDs you should apply for when arriving in Canada. You will need them to work, prove your status, prove that you are entitled to benefits etc. So take a moment to do the paperworks!

Juliette Giannesini is a French woman, living in English Canada. She went through the immigration process to settle in Canada and eventually became a Canadian citizen in 2009.

She is the author of the blog Correr Es Mi Destino, featuring articles on life in Canada, immigration and travels.