What documents serve as official IDs in Canada?

If you are living in Canada or you were born in this country, you will need to hold at least one identity document with which you can prove that you are a legal Canadian citizen or resident.

This ID will also come in handy for many different activities or projects, for example, to travel outside the country, to obtain your driving licence, to get your SIN (Social Insurance Number), and for many other administrative procedures of your everyday life.

You will find below a list of the main identity documents that are valid in Canada, and an overview of how to obtain them.

IDS FOR CANADIAN CITIZENS

THE REGULAR PASSPORT

This passport is blue and it is for Canadian citizens only. Its validity depends on the age of the passport holder:

  • Adults starting from 16 years or older can choose a 5-year or 10-year passport
  • Children aged 0 to 15 years are issued passports for a maximum of 5 years

How to apply

To apply for a Canadian passport, you’ll need to:

  1. Fill out an application form: Adult Passport Application or Child Passport Application
  2. Get your supporting documents and passport photos
  3. Find a guarantor and 2 references
  4. Submit your application and documentation either by mail or in person
  5. Pay the right fee:

For more information on this procedure, we suggest you read our article on how to apply for a Canadian passport or renew it.

THE TEMPORARY PASSPORT

This is a white-colored passport for Canadian citizens with an urgent and proven need for a passport. It’s issued for people waiting for a regular, special, or diplomatic passport. The issuing office decides how long the passport is valid for, to a maximum of 1 year.

Please note: not all foreign countries recognize the temporary passport. Remember to check before your departure whether it applies to the country your visiting or not.

How do I exchange it to another Canadian passport?

You can exchange your passport in one of the following ways:

  • In person or by mail at the following:
    • The full-service Canadian mission closest to your place of residence,
    • The mission where you applied for your regular, diplomatic, or special passport.
  • In person at a passport issuing authority in Canada.

A third party can exchange passports for you if he or she has:

  • A valid piece of identification,
  • A written authorization from you.

Please note: a fee of C$20 applies if you follow this process by mail (inside Canada).

DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT

It is a brown-colored passport for diplomats, high-ranking government officials, representatives, and delegates of the Government of Canada. It can be used for:

  • A post abroad
  • International governmental organizations and conferences of a diplomatic nature.

The issuing office decides the validity period.

SPECIAL PASSPORT

It’s a green-colored passport for Senators, Members of Parliament, and Government of Canada employees who are traveling to a post abroad or are on an official mission in a non-diplomatic capacity. The issuing office decides the validity period.

EMERGENCY TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

The emergency travel document is issued to Canadian citizens who are abroad, and for emergencies only. For example, if they had their passports lost or stolen. When there is no possibility to get a temporary passport, this document can be issued by the Canadian government offices abroad. It can be used to:

  • Return directly to Canada
  • Return to your country of residence
  • Travel to a Canadian government office abroad that offers full passport services.

The issuing office decides the validity period (usually 1 month).

THE PR CARD (OR Maple Leaf card)

The first Permanent Resident (PR) cards were distributed on June 28, 2002. Similar to a passport, this document allows its holder to prove its status, but it is issued by the office of Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to Canadian permanent residents. It costs $50 per new application and it’s valid for 5 years.

How can I renew my PR card?

It will take 83 days for you to replace your PR Card, and 129 days to get a new one.

In your application, you will need to include the following documents:

  • A clear copy of your valid passport or travel document,
  • Two identity photos,
  • A solemn declaration if your PR card was lost, stolen, destroyed,
  • A copy of the current PR Card.

For more information on this procedure, you can visit this link.

REFUGEE CANADIAN CITIZENS

These documents are issued for people with protected status, that is:

  • Convention refugees
  • People in need of protection

If you live in Canada as a refugee, you may ask for a refugee travel document to be allowed to travel to other countries, except your country of citizenship. The issuing office will decide on the validity period.

OTHER CASES

CERTIFICATE OF IDENTITY

This document is issued to permanent residents of Canada who aren’t yet Canadian citizens:

  • They are stateless
  • They can’t get a national passport or travel document from any source for a valid reason

TRAVEL DOCUMENT FOR A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF 16

You can apply for a travel document for your child under the age of 16 if you are:

  • One of the child’s parents and showing proof of parentage
  • The child’s legal guardian and providing proof of legal guardianship
  • The child’s custodial parent in case of separation or divorce and providing all legal documents.

We hope you found this information useful and that you can start as soon as possible your procedure to request your most-suitable ID document.


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