What are the different types of valid IDs in Ontario?

You need the right identification documents (IDs) for activities like driving, getting student benefits, accessing health care, and more.

What makes an identification document (ID) valid?

A driver’s license may be handy for identification, but it’s not the only 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 IDs 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 organizations usually require the original ID, not a copy and the document must not be expired.

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

Driver’s license

A driver’s license allows you 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.

Ontario health card (with photo)

An OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) card allows you to access health care services in Ontario. For other purposes, this card may or may not be valid as an ID. By law, organizations are only allowed to collect health information on individuals if they are linked to provincially funded health care. Your health card may be valid for identification purposes, but your health card number may not be recorded. Learn more about how to apply for a health card here.

Student card

Upon registration, your high school, university, or college provides these cards. If you have lost your card, you should contact your school office. Student IDs are proof of your enrollment and identity within the school and allow you to access the institution's facilities and services. 

You can use student cards outside of school as proof of signature, but they usually don’t have personal information like birth dates. Since the government does not distribute them, they’re not as reliable. The advantage of student cards is that you may get exclusive student pricing at participating retailers and other organizations like transit commissions.

Canadian passport

Passports can be used for identification, but carrying them around is risky and inconvenient. Replacing a lost or damaged 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

You can apply for a citizenship certificate here if you already have Canadian citizenship. The certificate is letter-sized and is usually used only if necessary. We recommend that you use a more portable business card-sized piece of ID. If you don’t have your citizenship yet and you are eligible, you can learn more about how to apply here.

Birth certificate

Like passports, it's inconvenient for most people to carry a paper certificate instead of 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 are 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, or if you've lost it, you can apply for the card here.

Study permit

You can receive a study permit if you are accepted into a Canadian institution. A study permit 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. Learn more about what options are available to you on the federal website.