Important Documents

Permanent resident card

The permanent resident card, a wallet-sized plastic card, is the official proof of your status as a permanent resident in Canada. All permanent residents who want to re-enter Canada on a commercial carrier (airplane, boat, bus or train) must show this card. You can also use your permanent resident card as an identification document (ID) in various circumstances – for example, to request other government documents (health card, Social Insurance Number (SIN)), to access government services or to open a bank account.

If you are a new permanent resident, you will automatically receive your card as part of the immigration process. You will receive your card by mail at your address in Canada. If you do not have a Canadian mailing address before you arrive in Canada, you must provide your new address to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as soon as possible after you arrive. If you change your address in Canada before you receive your card in the mail, inform CIC of your new address.

You can do this online at

You can apply for a new permanent resident card if yours has expired, or if it has been stolen or lost. If your address has changed, you should notify CIC as indicated above. For further information and questions on the permanent resident card, go to information/pr-card.

Social Insurance Number

You should apply for a SIN as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada. A SIN is a nine-digit number provided by Service Canada on behalf of the federal government. You will need this number to work in Canada or to apply for government programs and benefits. You must present one of the following documents when you apply for a SIN:

  1. Permanent residents:
  • Permanent resident card from CIC: this is the only acceptable document if your permanent residence application was processed in Canada.
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence AND visa counterfoil affixed to your foreign passport or travel document.
  1. Temporary residents:
  • Work permit from CIC.
  • Study permit from CIC.
  • Visitor record from CIC indicating that you are authorized to work in Canada.
  • Diplomatic identity card and a note of permission of employment issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

To apply for a SIN, simply gather the documents you need and take them to your nearest Service Canada Centre. The Service Canada agent will need to see the original documents (not copies). If your application and documents are in order, you will get a SIN in one visit.  For more information about the SIN, consult You can also call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218 (select option 3) or visit a Service Canada Centre in person (see the Blue Pages of the telephone book or the Service Canada website for a location near you).

Health card

In Canada, governments pay for many aspects of health care using money collected from taxes. This means that you do not pay for most services when you go to a doctor, clinic or hospital. For more details on Canada’s health-care system, see the section on Health care in Canada.

You will need a health insurance card to get health care in Canada. You must present this card each time you need medical services.

Applying for a government health insurance card

You should apply for a health insurance card from your provincial or territorial government as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada.

You can get an application at a doctor’s office, a hospital, a pharmacy or an immigrant-serving organization. You can also get the forms online from the government ministry responsible for health in your province or territory.

When you apply for your health insurance card, you will need to show identification such as your birth certificate, passport, permanent resident card or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292).

In most provinces and territories, each family member receives his/her own card with a personal health identification number.

You must carry the card with you and present it at a hospital or clinic when you or someone in your family needs health services.

Waiting period for receiving public health insurance

CIC strongly recommends that you purchase private health insurance to pay for your healthcare needs until the date when you receive free government health insurance. Private insurance companies are listed in the Yellow Pages.

Permanent residents in some provinces (British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick) must wait a certain period (up to three months) before receiving government health insurance. If you live in one of these provinces, make sure you have private health insurance for this waiting period.

Health coverage for protected persons or refugee claimants

The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) provides temporary health insurance to refugees, protected persons and refugee claimants and their dependants in some cases until they become eligible for provincial or territorial or private health plan coverage. Resettled refugees who already have provincial or territorial health insurance may be eligible to receive extra health coverage through the IFHP for one year from the date they arrive in Canada (with the possibility of extension for some people with special needs). This extra coverage could include emergency dental, vision and pharmaceutical care.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

www.cic.gc.caCitizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013

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