Social Insurance Number Is Canada’s Answer to the SSN

Do Canadians have Social Security numbers? In Canada, the equivalent to the SSN is the SIN (Social Insurance Number) created in 1964.

Dan Clarendon - Author

Aug. 3 2021, Published 4:05 p.m. ET

Canadian flag
Source: Getty Images

If you’re wondering if Canadians have Social Security numbers like Americans do, the answer is that the country of roughly 38 million has an equivalent identifier called the SIN (Social Insurance Number). The SIN is a nine-digit number, with the first digit identifying the area of registration.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

According to, SINs starting with 1 cover Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador) and overseas residents. Digits 2 and 3 cover Quebec, while 4 and 5 cover all but the northwestern area of Ontario. The digit 6 covers the prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta), as well as the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northwestern Ontario. Digit 7 covers Pacific provinces British Columbia and Yukon.

Here’s more info on SINs.

Social Insurance Numbers entered service in 1964.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the UIC (Unemployment Insurance Commission) created the SIN in 1964 to replace an older numbering system that couldn’t generate adequate combinations of numbers and letters. The CPP (Canada Pension Plan) was proposed in 1963, so the SIN came to be used for both UIC and CPP purposes.

Article continues below advertisement
Main Parliament Building in Ottawa
Source: Getty Images

Currently, the SIN is used for income tax returns, family allowances, school records, and other applications. “Basically, most financial and service program transactions between governments and Canadian citizens are controlled by means of a SIN,” the encyclopedia notes.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

A 1984 agreement between the U.S. and Canada makes the U.S. Social Security and Canada’s Social Insurance more compatible.

As the Social Security Administration explains in Publication No. 05-10198, the agreement between the U.S. and Canada that went into effect in 1984 “improves Social Security protection for people who work or have worked in both countries” and “helps many people who, without the agreement, would not be eligible for monthly retirement, disability, or survivors benefits under the Social Security systems of one or both countries.”

Article continues below advertisement

For example, if your work is covered by both the U.S. and Canadian Social Security systems, the agreement means that you only have to pay taxes to one country’s system. The agreement also makes it easier for you to qualify for benefits since you can combine their work credits from both countries. Publication No. 05-10198 provides more information about this totalization agreement.

Article continues below advertisement

The Canadian government considered an electronic national ID system.

In a report recently delivered to the Canadian Senate social affairs committee, the country’s Employment Department revealed that Canada investigated the prospect of an electronic national ID system two years ago.

The report came in response to a May 12 committee hearing on the Social Insurance Number Program—specifically a question from Senator Lucie Moncion from Ontario, who asked “whether any work has been undertaken to replace the use of the Social Insurance Number with a digital identifier.”

According to the Employment Department, the electronic national ID idea was eventually scuttled. “Given that identity is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction, apart from immigrants and newcomers to Canada who are provided with an identity document from the Department of Immigration, implementing an electronic national primary identity document is limited,” the report stated, according to Blacklock’s Reporter via Toronto Sun.


Latest Personal Finance News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Market Realist. Market Realist is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.