What are the different types of valid ID?

You need the right identification for various activities like driving, getting student benefits, accessing health care, travelling and more.

What makes an identification valid?

A driver’s license may be handy for identification, but it’s not the only form of valid identification you can use for day-to-day business.

Generally speaking, most organizations are looking for the following information when trying to identify you:

  • Birth date

  • Legal name

  • Photo

  • Signature

Depending on the purpose, only certain types of ID are acceptable for the service you are requesting. If you’re unsure of what the organization requires, it’s always best to just ask. Please note that usually organizations require the original ID, not a copy.

The list below describes different types of ID and where to get them.

Driver’s license

A license grants you the ability to drive on Canadian roads, but is also the primary form of identification you can use for most situations that require identification in Canada. You can learn more about getting your license here.

Ontario Photo Card

This card is a great substitute for Ontarians who do not necessarily want to get a driver’s license, but need to carry around identification for other purposes, like opening a bank account, domestic travel, buying liquor (if you're 19+), etc. You can learn more about how to get an Ontario Photo Card here.

Provincial health card (with photo)

This card may or may not be valid as an ID depending on the purpose. By law, organizations cannot collect health information on individuals unless they are linked to provincially funded health care. Your health card may be valid for identification purposes, but your health card number cannot be recorded. Learn more about how to apply for a health card here.

Student card

These cards are provided by your high school, university, or college upon registration. If you have lost your card, you should contact your school office. Student cards can be used as proof of signature, but they usually don’t have personal information like birth dates. Since they’re not distributed by the government, they’re not as reliable. The advantage of student cards is that you may get exclusive student pricing at participating retailers.

Canadian passport

Passports can be used for identification, but it’s risky and inconvenient to carry it around everywhere. The cost of replacing a lost passport is time consuming and expensive, so we recommend only using passports for travel. Passports are widely considered a trustworthy source of identification. You can apply for a Canadian passport here.

Canadian citizenship certificate

If you already have a Canadian citizenship, you can apply for a citizen certificate here. The certificate is letter-sized and is not usually used unless necessary. We recommend that you use a more portable business card sized piece of ID. If you do not have your citizenship yet, you can learn more on how to apply here.

Birth certificate

Like passports, it's inconvenient for most people to carry around a paper certificate as opposed to an identification card. However, birth certificates are widely accepted as a valid form of identification. If you were born in Ontario but do not have a birth certificate, and if you're at least 13 years-old, you can learn more and apply here.

Canadian permanent resident card (with signature)

If you immigrated here as a permanent resident, you should have received your permanent resident (PR) card soon after you came to Canada. If you didn’t receive the PR card within the first 180 days, of if you've lost it, you can apply for the card here.

Study permit

If you are accepted into a Canadian institution, you can receive a study permit. This allows you to attend Canadian educational institutes as an international student. Generally, students must apply for a study permit before entering Canada, but some can apply while in Canada or at the port of entry. It is best to learn what options are available to you by learning more on the federal site here.