Applying for a pension

"Predicting what regulations will be in force 30 years from now is impossible but it is always better to plan ahead."

Recent conversations with constituents who are just starting their application process for Canada Pension and Old Age Security benefits are bringing to light issues that younger members of the Canadian workforce should keep in mind sooner rather than later, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises when retirement time comes.

Mr. and Ms. Boomer have always been well regarded wherever they have lived. They even spent some time working in another country for Canadian and foreign employers before they decided to come back home and settle down. When the Boomers applied for their Canada Pension and Old Age Security benefits they had many obstacles to overcome before they saw their first cheque or direct deposit.

Suddenly they had to start a frantic search for the old documents that proved when they left Canada, where they worked, for how long and when they returned.

They wished they kept their old passports stamped with all the necessary dates. It would have been helpful if they had kept those old airplane tickets or other documents that showed the dates they entered the foreign country and when they returned to Canada. Keeping old pay stubs or staying in touch with their foreign employer would have been helpful, too. Now it is crunch time—trying to retrieve any useful documents from 35 to 40 years ago, especially from a foreign country, before their savings run out (if they still have some left).

This scenario should come as a warning to all Canadians who are traveling abroad for work and still plan to retire in Canada in some distant future.

Predicting what regulations will be in force 30 years from now is impossible but it is always better to plan ahead. If you immigrated to Canada as a child on your parents’ passport or visa, you might want to start looking for that old passport.

Even if you obtained Canadian citizenship in the meantime, you will still be required to submit the document showing when you first landed in Canada with your pension applications.

If you do not have your original landing document, you will need to request a Verification of Entry from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It might take some time to get the document, especially if Immigration is required to do a manual search through its records—if you arrived to Canada before computers were put to official use for record keeping.

Service Canada advises people to apply for their Old Age Security benefits and the Guaranteed Income Supplement up to 11 months before they turn 65.

In April 2013 Service Canada implemented a process to automatically enroll seniors who are eligible to receive the OAS pension.

If you can be automatically enrolled, Service Canada will send you a notification letter the month after you turn 64. If you do not receive this letter, you must apply for your OAS.

If you have always lived in Canada and have kept your personal records in a safe place, no problem.

Otherwise, you might want to start looking for those old immigration documents and get a head start on what can be a lengthy process.

Alex Atamanenko is the MP BC Southern Interior

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