First Steps As A Permanent Resident (9/10)

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The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

Welcome to my new series, “How to immigrate to Canada“!

I recently received quite a lot of emails, asking me questions about the immigration process. So I decided to explain the whole process in 10 posts, which will be published every Saturday.

I also encourage you to ask any question you may have. I’m not an immigration consultant, but from experience, I may be able to point you to the right direction!

In the series, we will see the different options you have to come to Canada, as well as your rights and duties as a Permanent Resident, what happens after you arrive etc.

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. See “who can ask for my SIN and when don’t I have to provide my SIN number?“.

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, so if you live in Ontario, you must deal with Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, if you live in Manitoba you will deal with Manitoba Health etc. To find out which ministry you need to deal with, check out the list here.

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 period, 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 require 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 paperwork!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I remember when I landed, the office tore off my Study Permit. I was shocked and almost screamed at that! That piece of paper had been my identity for a long time, but after you get the PR card, study/work permits are garbags. 🙂

    I’ve also known some people who do not change their SIN after getting PR. This is wrong. The older SIN is based on study/work permit (it starts from the number 9) and must be changed to reflect your status.

    So how is the post-citizenship feeling Zhu?

  2. @Nigel Babu – This is a tricky one because you do need an address. I know some people who use a friend’s address… For the Permanent Resident card, you have a lot of time to provide an address if you can’t give one right away at the airport.

    I will reply by email regarding your case, but I’m glad to discover you also have a blog!

    @Final_Transit – Not a citizen yet, next week! 😉

    You are so right about the SIN card. I changed mine twice already, from a 9 to a 5… and soon a 6 (or is it the other way around?? I’m tired!)

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Thank you! Almost citizen, almost…!

  3. @Nigel Babu – if you’re generally settled in a certain city, but unsure of where exactly you’re going to be living, try this. Find your local UPS store (try google maps) and get a UPS mailbox. It functions and looks just like a permanent address, plus you can go and check it no matter where in the area you actually live.

  4. Hi hope you can help me.. I heard that if you have lived in Canada for over 3 years or so you can apply for a ressindetship.. In my case I don´t know who elegiable am I, since I am turning 4 years in Canada next January leaving to my home Country for a few weeks but always coming back to Canada.. I love here but I do see the way to become a resident, Do you know anything about this?
    I will appreciate your help, thanks:)

    • What is your status in Canada?

      There is no such rule for becoming a permanent resident. There is no such thing as “ressindetship” either.

      To become a landed immigrant, you must apply for permanent residence.

      You must have heard that after three years in Canada as a permanent resident, you could apply for citizenship. 😉

  5. dear Zhu,
    plz let me know that after we become a landed immigrant,if my wife don’t want to do any job then what she will do? is she required still SIN card or not? plz reply me, i m waiting from your reply,
    Faisal Hameed

    • Your wife is free to work or not. She doesn’t have to work, it’s up to her.

      I recommand she applies for a SIN card. It is not only used for work.

  6. Hello

    You have a great website here with some really good information on it.

    I obtained my permanent residency and plan to travel to Canada in July.

    I am leaving on the Federal Skilled Workers .

    When I land in Canada ( Toronto) and heading to Vancouver after 10 days to stay there),hopefully I will have an address to give to the emigartion officers that I meet a the airport.

    If I do and they forward me on the Permant Resident card is a photo of me taken at the airport? This seems like a dumb question but tI was just wondering. presume it is a photographic I.D.

    Do I supply the photo’s do I bring them with me?

    Any help I would appreciate it.
    Republic of IRELAND

    • Hi there and welcome to Canada!

      The picture used for your PR card is one of the pictures you previously send when you applied for permanent residence. No picture is taken at the airport and you don’t need to bring one with you.

  7. Hi will be doing my landing in canada soon. A question I had when I land I get my PR card automatically in mail on the address provided at the airport, right. Some people are saying have to go the next day and have to apply for my PR card.
    Kindly calrify + I would get the sin card and PR card in my mail or do i have to collect it in person. some one told me the rule has changed and have to collect it in person.

    Thanks and your website is excellent.

    • As far as I know, the rules haven’t change and you will get your PR card in the mail, at the address you provided when you land.

      For you SIN card, you must apply in person. You will get your SIN number on the spot (on a piece of paper) and you will receive the actual card by mail.

  8. Hi Zhu

    Thanks for your practical information. I just have a question that I couldn’t find anywhere! My husband and I got our PR visa and it will be expired in coming July. But my husband should travel to Canada sooner than me. So I was wondering if there would be any problems if we land and enter Canada for the first time separately or not. Since the first observation at the airport seems to be important. Just to add more, my husband is the main applicant and he will fly a month earlier than me.

    • I believe that as long as the main applicant comes first, it doesn’t matter whether you both land together or not. I’d call CIC to be sure, though. Happy landing in Canada!

  9. Please i obtain my permanent resident to immigrate to vancouver and decided do to my friend who stay in Montreal can i enter Canada a Montreal Airport and collect my Permanent Resident there? Please i need Help

    • Hello,

      Landing in Montreal could be problematic as you don’t have CSQ (the process to immigrate to Quebec is different at a certain level).

        • Sure, landing in Ontario will be easier as you are not required a CSQ. You still should call CIC as I am not an immigration specialist and don’t have all the details.

  10. good day

    I’m still confuse, Please Help if i land in Ontario can i live there with out going to Vancouver ? and from Ontario airport can i give my address in Montreal to sent my PR


  11. HI and thanks for your helps

    I was wondering if I Have to apply for that three months Insurance before I receive my Health card!?

    thanks in advance

    • Depends on your status. If you are a new immigrant to Ontario, you will have to wait for three months before being covered by OHIP so a private insurance may be wise. But you didn’t give much details…

  12. Hi,

    Do I have to renter Canada before the end of evrey 6 months after I had my PR cards, or it is only the 2 years within the 5 with any arrangment..


  13. I am landing in Toronto but I do not have a mailing address nor do I have friends or relatives in Canada, I am planning to stay only for 10 days from the date I am landing and back again to my work to resign and get my end of service benefits.
    what should I do to get my PR card?

    • You can give a mailing address a bit later (i.e it doesn’t have to be right when you land at the airport). However, you may need your card to re-enter Canada, depending on where you are from (do you need a visa to travel to Canada?).

  14. I have received a confirmation of permanent residence form and visa stamped under skilled workers category. My city of destination is mentioned as Toronto- Ontario . Can I land in Toronto and give address of my pr card as Calgary – Alberta .
    Also after landing in Toronto can I apply for sin card in Toronto , giving the address of Calgary – Alberta. I have decided to change my province? Is it fine ?

  15. My husband lived in Canada for almost 30 years. He went to school and worked. He returned to the US in 1997 and now he is having trouble getting his Canadian OAS. He has a Canadian SIN number, and he receives CPP, but OAS says Immigration Canada does not have entry and exit dates. Is there any source of information to help him get his OAS pension? He has been sending so many letter and making so many phone calls but it seems like it is getting nowhere.

    • “Hello” and “thank you” are always appreciated… I’m not a robot.

      Anyhow, this is a very specific case and you’d better off seeking legal advice. It depends what he status was in Canada, maybe. If he doesn’t live in Canada anymore this may be the issue.

      • Thanks in advance seemed a bit premature. Perhaps you know of another source of information. We are seniors living in the US and on a very tiny income. Lawyers not an option.

        • I can only refer you to Citizenship and Immigration. Your case is a bit complicated, I doubt someone else will have the right answer.

  16. Hello Zhu,

    I have read some of your posts related to Immigration to Canada. These are very helpful. Thanks for all your efforts.


  17. Hi Zhu, Thanks for writing the series. Very helpful.

    I have couple of questions, if you can answer them point-wise as follows:
    1. After getting my qualifications assessed through WES, Canada during application process, do i still need to get the qualifications assessed after landing in any province, say Ontario? Most of the websites highlight this as required by the Canadian employers. If yes, which is the best agency

    2. Do I need to get my work experience assessed too? Is there any agency who does this?

    3. How do employers check the English proficiency of the candidate? Am I required to submit my IELTS/CLB result sheet? Or only the verbal ability is evaluated at the time of interview and opinion is formed about English competency?

    4. As a new immigrant, I will be carrying sufficient funds to take care of my living expenses unless I get a job. I will require a place to settle down. Can I rent an apartment inside the city without getting the job? Are estate agents, landlords accepts tenant without a job, provided he can pay the rent? If yes, what are the documents required? If you can plz explain the process or your own experience.

    Thanks in advance

    • First of all, congratulation on getting ready and seeking information. This is the key to success 😉

      I’ll give you my two cents, but I’m a terrible example since I was still a student when I moved to Canada, and I had very little work experience.

      1) This completely depends on your field of work. If you are a brain surgeon, chances are your employer will need to have your qualifications assessed. Some employers ask for copies of your degree and are okay with foreign degrees, other not.

      2) Work experience is usually assessed through the reference system, i.e. your former employers (for instance, a manager) will be contacted.

      3) This again is done informally. I have never heard of an employer asking for language proficiency test results, you show your language skills during the interview. The exception could be if you are working in a linguistic field, for instance, as a translator, I had to take a few French/English tests.

      4) Good question. My experience won’t help here, I had a place (husband is Canadian). Can anyone chime in? Usually, landlords ask for first and last month of rent, and I’m sure your situation is common enough so if you can provide first and last month, it may be enough.

  18. Hi ZHU,

    Really appreciate your posts.. Its really helpful. I gotta doubt.. I have recently got My PR visa and planning to land in Canada in 1st week of June.. Just wondering if I Can Apply for SIN Card by e- service .. before I land there? Please share your thoughts on this.


    • Welcome to Canada and congrats on your new PR!

      I am not aware of applications made from outside Canada, I thought you had to apply in person. Apparently you can apply from outside Canada (cf. Not sure I would recommend it though, since I believe you have to land first. Applying for a SIN in person is fast and easy, I don’t think you have much to gain by applying ahead of time anyway.

      • Hi iam in canada ten years my pdr expire 5 years ago i didnt renew do iam. Legal to work canada or to stay plz. If now anythink about give information thanks

  19. Hi ZHU,
    I just got my confirmation of permanent residence yesterday and Iam already inside the country.My wife and son are planning to land in canada in second week of May. I need to exit and re-enter canada border to finalize my residency,but my question is :As A principal applicant,does my family need this type of document (my COPR) which was stamp at the canadian border for them to present at their point of entry together with their passport and COPR or just their own COPR.

    • I have no idea, it changed since I landed ten years ago. I believe dependents cannot land without the principal applicant, but you should call CIC to check. And congrats on your PR!

  20. We received the sin number of my husband and my son at Pearson airport but should we expect any actual SIN Cart ?

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