Frequently Asked Questions - Secure Certificate of Indian Status

Q.1) What is a Certificate of Indian Status or Status card and why does AANDC issue it?

First issued in 1956, the Certificate of Indian Status, more commonly referred to as a Status card, is an identity document issued for administrative reasons by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to confirm that the cardholder is registered as a Status Indian under the Indian Act.

Q.2) Who is eligible for a Status card and what is it used for?

Any individual registered as an Indian under the Indian Act is eligible for a Status card, regardless of age, and can apply for a card. The Status card is documentary evidence provided to registered Indians to facilitate access to a wide range of services and benefits administered by federal and provincial governments and other private sector program and service providers.

Q.3) Why do First Nations need a new card? Did they request it?

The Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) includes several security improvements to help protect First Nations individuals from identity theft while providing them with access to benefits and services. The existing Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) is either a paper-laminate or plastic card with very few of the security features now normally expected of a government issued identity document that provides access to benefits and services. This makes the card open to tampering and counterfeiting.

A project was initiated to address the need for increased security features on Status cards to reduce the risks of identity theft and forgery. This also helps to ensure the ongoing integrity of programs and services.

Q.4) How is the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) secure?

The new SCIS features several security improvements such as:

  • Laser engraving which burns information directly into the card;
  • Touch data that uses raised letters and numbers on the card surface;
  • atterns of extremely fine lines that cannot easily be scanned or copied;
  • An ultra-violet image and printing that is visible using specialized equipment; and
  • A window, appearing as a clear area in the card that allows a secondary photo image of the cardholder to be visible from both sides.

Q.5) How much will the new secure card reduce fraud?

It is difficult to estimate the amount of fraud that may be associated with the current CIS and the financial impacts, as specific cases of fraud are often difficult to detect.

Better identification and controls through this secure card will help to ensure that only individuals who are entitled will have access to the benefits and services it provides, minimizing the likelihood of fraud.

Q.6) What was the purpose of the SCIS pilot projects?

AANDC has been piloting a more secure version of the Certificate of Indian Status - the Secure Certificate of Indian Status - since 2009. The objective is to create an identification document with security improvements that significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized alterations or duplication while protecting benefits and services from fraud.

Several pilot projects were undertaken to test different elements of the service delivery model such as card media, card formats, application forms, intake processes, intake locations, and training.

During the engagement period, First Nations requested that the Secure Certificate of Indian Status continue to be accepted, as it has been historically, as a border-crossing document. AANDC, in consultation with Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Government developed a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant process and piloted it with First Nation border communities.

Q.7) Will First Nation's offices outside of Treaty 7 continue to issue Certificates of Indian Status (status cards)?

Yes. All First Nations across Canada will continue to issue Certificate's of Indian Status until they are converted to the SCIS application intake process during the phased-national implementation.

Q.8) What does the term "SCIS application intake" mean?

"SCIS application intake" refers to the initial application process for a SCIS card when an individual completes the SCIS application form, provides the required identification documentation, and photographs(2). When the application intake is completed, the application is sent to AANDC's Headquarters offices for processing.

Application "processing" involves a number of steps that include verification of the Indian Registration number; validation of identification; secure filing of the application; and the printing of the secure card.

Q.9) What are the two formats of the SCIS?

AANDC has two formats of the Secure Certificate of Indian Status in circulation, as follows:

The first format, the in-Canada format, is for accessing services and benefits in-Canada. Consistent with the current practice, AANDC does share information with the appropriate government agencies for the provision of services within-Canada. (e.g. health benefits, drug benefits).

The second format, the Border-Crossing format, provides the same access to services as the in-Canada format and is an acceptable document to present when visiting the U.S. via land ports of entry (which can include ferry and lake crossings).

Q.10) Can I obtain a SCIS application form from AANDC's website?

Applications for in-Canada SCIS are found on the forms page.

Q.11) What will happen to the old versions of the Status card once the new one is introduced?

Older versions of the Status card will remain valid until their renewal date.

Q.12) Why does the Secure Certificate of Indian Status Card (SCIS) have to be renewed? Why does the SCIS have to be renewed when Indian Status does not expire?

The SCIS is a Government of Canada issued identity document. The requirement to renew is consistent with other official identification documents, such as passports and drivers licenses. This feature ensures that the identification document remains current, and minimizes the potential for fraudulent use.

Q.13) Why is "Cardholder is not eligible for sales/transaction tax exemption" printed on the back of some Secure Certificates of Indian Status? Who is receiving these cards?

The statement "Cardholder is not eligible for sales/transaction tax exemption" on the back of some Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards gives service providers the important information that the individual presenting the card is not eligible for tax exemption. Individuals who have received a card with this notation are members of a self-governing First Nation that has negotiated a self-government arrangement resulting in a change to the individual's eligibility for tax exemption. Individuals who require more information about tax exemption can go to the following Canada Revenue Agency website.

On Current Measure

Q.14) Why is AANDC undertaking this measure of providing the in-Canada SCIS to all applicants, even if they applied for a border-crossing SCIS?

There is a backlog in processing applications for the SCIS which has resulted in a delay in delivering the card. The department is working quickly to process applications and deliver the SCIS as quickly as possible.

Since it is critical that all applicants have immediate access to services and benefits accessible through the SCIS, the Department is focusing its resources, at this time, on producing and distributing the in-Canada format of the SCIS. This will get a SCIS in the hands of as many applicants as quickly as possible.

Q.15) Why is there such a large inventory?

There are currently close to 6,000 applications in the inventory and AANDC continues to receive up to 1,000 new applications per week. The Department has received an increased number of applications recently due to the establishment of the new Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band - announced in September 2011, the coming into force of the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act in January 2011, and ongoing interest from First Nations individuals seeking to upgrade their Status card to the SCIS.

Q16) If AANDC is only producing the in-Canada format of the SCIS at this time, how will First Nations individuals ensure they have the correct documentation for visiting the U.S.?

For crossing the border into the United States (U.S.) via land ports of entry (which can include ferry and lake crossings), AANDC has been advised that, for the near term, U.S. border officers will accept both the SCIS and older Certificates of Indian Status as valid identity documents. However, the Government of Canada cautions individuals that the duration for the acceptance of these documents for border crossing purposes into the United States is entirely at the discretion of the U.S. Government. A list of documents approved for entering the United States can be found at Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Please note that travellers entering the United States by air continue to be required to present a valid passport or, in certain circumstances, a NEXUS card. If you urgently require documentation for entering the United States please contact Passport Canada.

Both formats of the SCIS (in-Canada and border-crossing) as well as the current paper-laminate CIS are currently accepted as valid identity documents for entry into Canada.

On Border-Crossing

Q.17) When will AANDC resume issuing an SCIS for border-crossing?

Applicants will be advised on the status of the border-crossing format in the near future. As more information becomes available, it will be posted on AANDC's website.

Q.18) First Nations individuals have been using their Status cards to cross the border into the United States for years. Why are we being told we will soon require a border-crossing SCIS, a passport, a NEXUS card or other documents to cross the border?

First Nations individuals have historically been able to use their CIS to visit the U.S. Over the last 10 years, U.S. officials have tightened the border-crossing policies including the implementation of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) standards to augment border security. All Canadians have been subjected to enhanced security requirements.

For crossing the border into the United States (U.S.) via land ports of entry (which can include ferry and lake crossings), we have been advised that, for the near term, U.S. border officers will accept both the SCIS and older Certificates of Indian Status as valid identity documents. However, the Government of Canada cautions individuals that the duration for the acceptance of these documents for border crossing purposes into the United States is entirely at the discretion of the U.S. Government. A list of documents approved for entering the United States can be found at Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Please note that travellers entering the United States by air continue to be required to present a valid passport or in certain circumstances, a NEXUS card. If you urgently require documentation for entering the United States please contact Passport Canada.

Q.19) The in-Canada format of the SCIS states on the back of the card that it "is not valid for border-crossing purposes", yet I understand it is temporarily being accepted by the United States when crossing the border into the U.S.?

For crossing the border into the U.S. via land and water ports of entry (which can include ferry and lake crossings), AANDC has been advised that for the near term, U.S. border officers will accept both the SCIS and older Certificates of Indian Status, including those SCIS that indicate "not valid for border crossing" on the back of the card, as valid identity documents. AANDC is working with U.S. counterparts to inform U.S. border officers of this change.

The Government of Canada cautions individuals that the duration for the acceptance of these documents for border crossing purposes into the United States is entirely at the discretion of the U.S. Government. A list of documents approved for entering the United States can be found at Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Please note that travellers entering the United States by air continue to be required to present a valid passport or in certain circumstances, a NEXUS card. If you urgently require documentation for entering the United States please contact Passport Canada.

Q.20) If I already have a border-crossing SCIS, does it need to be replaced?

No. The border-crossing SCIS issued during the pilot project continues to meet the main goal of the SCIS, which is to confirm that the cardholder is registered as a Status Indian under the Indian Act, and has access to services and benefits.

However, if First Nations individuals who have a border-crossing SCIS wish to replace their existing cards to the in-Canada format of the SCIS, they may do so by applying at any of the locations listed on our website which are accepting applications.

Q.21) What will happen to the SCIS border-crossing applications that are currently with AANDC and require more information from the individual?

All applications will be reviewed and processed based on the criteria required for an in-Canada SCIS. If more information is required from an individual, they will be contacted directly; otherwise, they will be issued an in-Canada SCIS upon determination that they have met all eligibility requirements.

Applicants will be advised on the status of the border-crossing format in the near future. As more information becomes available, it will be posted on AANDC's website.

Q.22) Will the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status enable First Nations persons born in-Canada to travel to the United States to live or work without obtaining an alien registration card (green card) or work permit?

United States Immigration and Naturalization laws require that First Nations persons born in-Canada have at least 50 percent Aboriginal blood quantum to enter the United States to live or work without a green card or work permit.

Canadian law is different in that registration as an Indian under the provisions of the Indian Act is not based on percentage of Indian blood quantum.

As such, United States Immigration and Naturalization usually requests that an individual provide a letter of blood quantum from his or her First Nation or a letter from an AANDC office verifying an individual's Indian ancestry. For further information visit the Embassy of the United States website.

Q.23) Is there a link between the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status and the Jay Treaty?

No. The Jay Treaty of 1794 provided free border-crossing rights for "the Indians dwelling on either side of the boundary line" between Upper and Lower Canada and the United States, and exemption from duty or taxes on their "own proper goods" when crossing the border.

After the War of 1812, the Treaty of Ghent between Britain and the United States was intended to restore the border-crossing rights of the Jay Treaty, but legislation implementing these rights in Upper and Lower Canada lapsed. Because of this, the Jay Treaty is not recognized in-Canada. There is therefore no link between the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status and the Jay Treaty.

In the 1920s, the United States changed its immigration laws and ever since, Canadian-born people with at least 50 per cent Aboriginal blood can enter, live in and work in the United States without immigration restrictions.

On How to Apply for an SCIS

Q.24) Where can I apply for a SCIS?

You can apply for an in-Canada SCIS by completing the SCIS application form, providing all documentation and mailing it to:

SCIS Processing Unit
10 Wellington Street
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0H4

Or

You can apply by visiting one of the following offices:

AANDC Regional Offices located in Quebec QC, Whitehorse YT, Vancouver BC, Toronto ON, Amherst NS, Regina SK, Edmonton AB, Calgary AB, Yellowknife NT; Treaty 7 First Nations offices in Alberta, AANDC district offices in Brantford Business Centre, Fort William First Nation, ON, Sudbury ON, Kahnawake QC (can only provide services to members of the Kahnawake and Kanesatake First Nations; services are offered in English) and Prince Albert, SK and AANDC Headquarters in Gatineau, QC. Information will be posted on the AANDC website when additional locations will be accepting applications.

Below are the addresses for locations currently accepting applications:

Headquarters
15 Eddy
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H4

Regional Offices

Quebec
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Place Jacques-Cartier Complex
320 St. Joseph Street East
Suite 400
Quebec, Quebec
G1K 9J2

Whitehorse
Room 415C
300 Main Street
Whitehorse, Yukon
Y1A 2B5

Vancouver
Suite 600
1138 Melville Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6E 4S3

Toronto
8th Floor
25 St. Clair Avenue East
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 1M2

Amherst
P.O Box 160
40 Havelock Street
Amherst, Nova Scotia
B4H 3Z3

Winnipeg
365 Hargrave Street
Room 200
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3B 3A3

Regina
1827 Albert Street
Regina, SK
S4P 2S9

Edmonton
630 Canada Place
9700 Jasper Avenue
EDMONTON, AB T5J 4G2

NWT Region
P.O. Box 1500
4914 - 50th Street
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2R3

District Offices

Calgary
Suite 300
9911 Chiila Boulevard
TSUU T'INA, AB T2W 6H6

Prince Albert
North Central District Office
3601 - 5th Avenue East
Prince Albert, SK
S6V 7V6

Kahnawake Service Centre
1 River Road / and
P.O. Box 250 Principale St.
Kahnawake, QC
J0L 1B0
(Can only provide services to members of the Kahnawake and Kanesatake First Nations; services are offered in English)

Anemki Business Centre
100 Anemki Place, Suite 101
Fort William First Nation, ON
P7J 1A5

Sudbury Business Centre
40 Elm Street, Suite 290
Rainbow Centre - 2nd Floor
Sudbury, ON
P3C 1S8

Brantford Business Centre
58 Dalhousie Street, 3rd floor
Brantford, ON
N3T 5W5

Treaty 7 First Nations (Band Offices)

Blood Tribe
Blood Tribe Administration
Box 60
Standoff, AB T0L 1Y0

Piikani Nation Administration
Box 70
Brocket, AB T0K 0H0

Siksika Nation Administration
Box 1219
Siksika, AB T0J 3W0

Stoney Tribal Administration
Box 40
Morley, AB T0L 1N0

Q.25) Can any registered First Nation individual apply at a Treaty 7 First Nation Office?

If you are a registered Indian and not a member of Treaty 7, you should contact the Indian Registry Administrator that you are planning to visit prior to applying. It's at the discretion of each respective Treaty 7 First Nation to decide if they will accept applications from non-Treaty 7 First Nations individuals.

Q.26) What documents are required for a SCIS application? Who must pay for these documents?

To obtain a SCIS, an individual needs to provide the following documents:

  • Original proof of birth document
  • Name-linking documents (if required)
  • Two passport-style photographs
  • Valid identification
  • Completed application form

The applicant pays any fees associated with obtaining these documents.

For more information, visit the SCIS Application Information section of the AANDC website.

Q.27) Is there a fee for the SCIS?

AANDC does not charge First Nations individuals for the SCIS itself, however, each person must pay for his or her own documentation to support the application.

Q.28) Are offices continuing to accept border-crossing SCIS applications?

Border-crossing SCIS applications will continue to be accepted. Applicants will be advised on the status of the border-crossing version in the near future. As more information becomes available, it will be posted on AANDC website. At this time we are in a position to provide applicants with an in-Canada version of the SCIS to immediately access their services and benefits.

Q.29) My SCIS is valid for how long?

The in-Canada SCIS is valid for 10 years for adults. For children 15 years and under, it is valid for five years.

The border crossing SCIS for an adult is valid for five years. For children 15 years and under it is valid for five years.

Q.30) If my card is lost or stolen, what can I do?

If you have lost your border-crossing SCIS, in-Canada SCIS, or any other Status card, it will be replaced by an In-Canada SCIS at this time. First Nation individuals can apply for a new SCIS, by mail or at the nearest AANDC Regional and District office or designated First Nation band offices.

You must provide the following:

  • Completed application form: a SCIS Adult Application For Applicants Sixteen (16) Years of Age or Older (83-130) form or a SCIS Parent or Legal Guardian Application for Applicants Fifteen (15) Years of Age or Younger or a Dependent Adult (83-131)
  • Original Birth Certificate
  • Statutory declaration for a lost or stolen card (if stolen, a police claim number is required)
  • Two new passport-style photographs
  • Valid identification
  • Name-linking documents (if required)
  • Guarantor declaration (if applying by mail)

The applicant pays any fees associated with obtaining these documents.

Q.31) How do I renew my card?

You can renew your current SCIS up to six months prior to the renewal date or up to one year after the "valid until" date listed on your SCIS.

You must provide the following:

  • Completed application form: a SCIS Adult Application Form Applicants Sixteen (16) Years of Age or Older (83-130) form or a SCIS Parent or Legal Guardian Application for Applicants Fifteen (15) Years of Age or Younger or a Dependent Adult (83-131)
  • SCIS
  • Two new passport-style photographs
  • Valid identification
  • Guarantor declaration (if applying by mail)

Applications submitted a year after the "renew before" date will require the applicant to fulfill the documentation requirements for an initial SCIS application, as well as presenting their SCIS or a Statutory Declaration.

You must provide the following (if it is a year after the renewal date):

  • Completed application form: a SCIS Adult Application Form Applicants Sixteen (16) Years of Age or Older (83-130) form or a SCIS Parent or Legal Guardian Application for Applicants Fifteen (15) Years of Age or Younger or a Dependent Adult (83-131)
  • Original birth certificate
  • SCIS or Statutory Declaration Concerning A Lost, Stolen, Damaged or Destroyed CIS or SCIS
  • Name-linking documents (if required)
  • Two new passport-style photographs
  • Valid identification
  • Guarantor declaration (if applying by mail)

If there is a change to the personal information due to a life event change, such as marriage or legal name change, applicants will be required to fulfill the documentation requirements for an initial SCIS application as well as presenting their SCIS or a Statutory Declaration Concerning a Lost, Stolen, Damaged or Destroyed SCIS (83-113).

Please note, failure to complete all the sections of the form and submit all necessary documentation will result in your application being refused and returned to you.

All registered First Nations individuals can apply for the in-Canada format by mail. Please visit the forms page to obtain an application form.

Please see Question 24, for office locations to apply for the SCIS in-person.

Q.32) Why is a long form birth certificate required when applying on behalf of a child? Is this required for both formats?

Consistent with applications for Indian Registration, a long form birth certificate is required when applying for both formats of the SCIS. This original document informs the processing officer that the individual applying on behalf of the child has the right to do so, and provides information as to who should sign the parental consent section of the application form as the lineage is stated.

Q.33) Why do I need a marriage certificate?

A marriage certificate is only required if the applicant has taken their spouse's surname. This document allows for AANDC personnel to make an official name change in the Indian Registry and issue a SCIS in that legal name. For applicants who are divorced, separated or widowed, and continue to use their spouse's name, the marriage certificate is still required.

Q.34) What does the term "if applicable" mean when children 15 years of age and under need to be accompanied by both parents or legal guardians for the border-crossing SCIS application? What happens if one parent is not able to be there in person?

"If applicable" refers to any instance where there are no legal documents (i.e. only one parent is named on the birth certificate, Death Certificate or Court Documents awarding sole custody to the applying parent and no access rights to the other parent) to support an application with only one parental signature.

Where the other parent or legal guardian has signed the application form but cannot be present, a copy (both sides) of a valid government issued ID with their name, signature and photograph that has been certified by an eligible guarantor and a Guarantor Declaration (83-111E) must be completed and signed.

Where the other parent or legal guardian is unavailable to sign the application form, a Statutory Declaration in Lieu of Other Parent's Signature (83-110E) completed and signed in the presence of a Commissioner for Oaths, Notary Public or Lawyer must also be submitted.

Q.35) What happens if I am estranged from my significant other yet I need to apply for a SCIS for my child and am unable to obtain a signature? What can I do?

When the other parent or legal guardian is unavailable to sign the application form, a Statutory Declaration in Lieu of Other Parent's Signature (83-110E) completed and signed in the presence of a Commissioner for Oaths, Notary Public or Lawyer must also be submitted.

Q.36) Once I have all my documents required to apply, will I be able to mail my application directly to AANDC?

Yes. All registered First Nations individuals can apply for the in-Canada format only by mail. Please visit the forms page to obtain an application form.

Q.37) Why is AANDC offering Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act applicants the opportunity to apply for a Secure Certificate of Indian Status before current registered Status Indians?

Unlike those who currently have Indian Status, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act applicants do not currently have a status card. As AANDC is moving towards fully implementing the SCIS, it is more efficient for both clients and AANDC to provide these new first-time clients the new SCIS at the time of registration. Both cards, the current CIS (Certificate of Indian Status) and the new SCIS provide equal access to benefits and access to programs.

On Protection of Personal Information

Q.38) How is personal information appearing on Status cards protected under Privacy legislation?

Privacy is a key element of all aspects of this project. Personal information contained in the Indian Register and maintained by AANDC is protected under the federal Privacy Act. Any concerns regarding this Act should be directed to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada at the toll-free number of 1-800-282-1376. Further information is available on the website for the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Q.39) Does the information contained on the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status differ from the paper laminated version?

No. The personal information that is contained on the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status includes the same data as the paper laminated Status Card. The data fields included on the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status are the person's name, card number, registration number, gender and date of birth.

Like all forms of identification, it is the responsibility of the individual to protect the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status and the information it contains.

Q.40) Does the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status contain a microchip, Radio frequency identification chip (RFID) or "smart card" features?

No.

Q.41) Will service providers and other organizations have access to the information contained in the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status? What will they do with the information?

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has no ability to control how service providers and other organizations will use the information. It is up to individual cardholders to decide if they want to voluntarily allow such organizations to have access to the information on their card. Keep in mind that the Machine Readable Zone contains no more information than is already clearly visible on the card. Once a cardholder voluntarily allows a service provider or other organization access to the Status card, the information that is visibly present on the card is then available to that business or organization.

Q.42) Can First Nations expect any changes concerning the ways the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status will be used?

There are no changes planned as to how AANDC will use the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status. This is largely a matter determined by service or program providers outside of AANDC. However, AANDC has been taking steps to raise awareness among cardholders, service providers and all government agencies of the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status as a valid and credible proof of Indian status.

Q.43) How will stakeholders such as service providers and provinces/territories be made aware of the implementation of the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status?

An information campaign has been launched to inform all stakeholders of the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status.

General

Q.44) Where do I get more information?

For further information related to your eligibility to be registered as a Status Indian, or to obtain a new Secure Certificate of Indian Status once you are registered, contact any Indian Registry Administrator (IRA) or AANDC office. Further information regarding the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status is available by calling toll-free 1-800-567-9604, emailing infopubs@aandc-aadnc.gc.ca or viewing the AANDC Web site.

More information relating to various benefit entitlements can be found at the following Web sites: