New immigrants to Canada should get a social insurance number (SIN) in a similar way to newborn babies, auditors have recommended.
Their report suggests a move into line with the ‘SIN@birth’ method would cut federal government costs by as much as $7 million a year and make life easier for new arrivals.
Under the recommendations to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the relevant government department, the SIN would be generated at the same time as permanent residency papers, cutting out the need for a visit to a service point.
Currently new immigrants must attend a Service Canada point in person in order to get their number generated after provided the correct documents.
How new immigrants currently obtain their SIN
- Applicant visits a Service Canada Centre
- They are greeted by a Citizen Service Officer (CSO) who confirms their eligibility and determines whether they have the proper documentation.
- The applicant waits in a queue to be called to see a second CSO, where the SIN is processed.
- The CSO authenticates the applicant, verifies the applicant’s identification and enters their biographical data.
- The applicant verbally confirms their personal information and provides their address and phone number.
- The CSO is alert to any risk factors that may warrant additional examination.
- If no red flags are triggered and the applicant’s information is confirmed, the CSO completes the process and hands over a paper printout of their SIN.
Auditors believe this process could be streamlined and the margin for error reduce if these checks were done electronically, with the SIN handed over when the new immigrant arrives at the Canadian border.
The report reads: “If these applicants could simultaneously apply for a SIN as part of the application process for CIC documentation and when necessary complete the process upon arrival at customs in Canada, it would result in substantial annual savings, enhanced client service, and improved data accuracy.
“In the 2014–15 financial year, as many as 560,000 SIN applications could have been processed through this model, representing possible annual savings of $7 million.”
The main barrier for implementing this change is cost, with the report noting the set up SIN@Birth in Ontario required an investment of $5 million from ESDC.
But, the report argues, the long-term savings would eclipse these costs if the upfront money could be found.
And with the sensitive nature of the SIN in relation to fraud, making the process electronic would reduce the number of people allowed to see an individual’s personal number.
Elsewhere, a recent audit into the process of awarding Canadian citizenship was found to have several flaws leading to candidates with criminal records and false addresses slipping through the system.
A report by Auditor-General Michael Ferguson said key checks in the process were being routinely overlooked, allowing candidates to be incorrectly granted citizenship and access to the benefits that go with it.
Furthermore, the costs of revoking those citizenships would be high and the process long, Ferguson said.
Immigration Minister John McCallum accepted the criticisms and said action would be taken to plug the gaps in the process.
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