Monday, August 29, 2011

Social Insurance Number

Aka: If the U.S. government is “big brother” does that make the Canadian government “step-brother?”

One of the great things about moving to London a month before classes begin is that we have a lot of time to get all the “red tape” out of the way.  We have been using the International Student Handbook as a guide, making sure we accomplish everything needed.  Our student permits granted to us when we crossed the border allow us both to work while in school, but only on campus.  When reading up on working on campus, we realized that we would have to get a social insurance numbers from the Canadian government in order to be paid.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is where the International & Exchange Student Centre was a huge help.  After reading through the handbook, we were still a bit confused about the employment contract we needed for the SIN.  At this point, we had still been going to our friend Don when we had questions about the moving process.  However, Don is Canadian so he was born with a SIN.  I suggested we stop at the IESC with our questions.  That is what they are there for right?  It was a slow day, since it was still a couple weeks out from the start of the semester, so we were quickly assisted with getting our paperwork together.

To apply for our SINs we needed to go to a Service Canada Centre, which is located in downtown London in the Dominion Public Building.  We decided to make a day of it and walk downtown to familiarize ourselves with the city and enjoy a warm summer day.  Having chosen one of the “off-peak” times to go, it was a minimal wait after checking-in until being called. 

Dominion Public Building

The woman who assisted me was nice and helpful.  Although, she opened by telling me that a SIN was very different from a Social Security Number, but her description of a SIN made it sound exactly like a SSN.   However, she is the expert, so I will just have to take her word for it.  One of the differences is that if/when we move away from Canada, we are still entitled to the money we contribute to Social Insurance out of our paychecks.  The government will give us that money; we do not just lose it.  That was a bit of a pleasant surprise.

Our trip was efficient enough to leave us plenty of time to do some other things while we were downtown.  We stopped at the London Public Library to get cards, I checked out a couple running stores, and we stopped at Smoke’s Poutinerie for lunch.  For those of you not familiar with poutine, it is a traditional Canadian dish of french fries with cheese curds and brown gravy on top.  Since I had never experienced it before, I opted for traditional poutine.  Doug was a bit more adventurous and had the triple pork poutine with Italian sausage, smoked bacon, and chipotle pulled pork on top.  It was delicious and very filling.  We both had to take half of our “regular” sized portions home for dinner!

Downtown Branch of the London Public Library

Smoke's Poutinerie

Traditional on left, Triple Pork on right

Overall, it was a day that went a long way to making us feel more settled and Canadian!

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