This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

What benefits are available to senior immigrants in Canada? Do immigrants get the old age security? Do they qualify for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)?

These are a few of the questions I get from elderly newcomers to Canada who are concerned about their financial security… now and for the future.

I have previously covered the federal and provincial pension programs for seniors. In this article, I summarize each of the programs and highlight how your eligibility as an immigrant and/or the benefit amount you receive varies based on various factors.

Old Age Security Pension

The Old Age Security (OAS) pension is a monthly payments made to eligible seniors who are 65 years or older.

It is a federally funded program and you do not need to have worked in Canada to qualify for it.

Who is eligible?

To qualify for OAS, you must be 65 years or older, be a Canadian citizen or legal resident, and have lived in Canada for at least 10 years since turning 18.

You may still qualify for OAS even if you haven’t lived in Canada for 10 years as an adult, if you:

1. Have lived in a country that has a social security agreement with Canada e.g. China, Japan, United States, Sweden, Romania, Malta, India, Barbados, Brazil and several others.

In this case, the time spent living in one of these countries may count towards the 10-year minimum threshold.

Or,

2. Have contributed to the social security of a country that has a social security agreement with Canada.

How much will you get?

The current maximum monthly OAS payment is $614.14 (October to December 2020 quarter). To receive the maximum amount, you must have lived in Canada for at least 40 years as an adult.

An eligible senior immigrant who has lived in Canada for less than 40 years will receive a prorated pension amount.

For example, if you have lived in Canada for 10 years, you will receive 10/40th or 25% of the maximum OAS amount.

How to apply for OAS

You may be automatically enrolled for OAS when you turn 65, or may need to apply.

If you haven’t received a letter from OAS (Service Canada) stating that you have been automatically enrolled, you should contact them by phone at 1-800-277-9914.

Eligible seniors can apply for the OAS starting at one month after their 64th birthday by completing Form ISP-3550, if needed.

Guaranteed Income Supplement

If you are eligible to receive the OAS pension, you may also qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) if you are a low-income senior.

The GIS is a tax-free benefit, however, you must file a tax return every year to remain eligible.

Who is eligible?

You may be eligible for GIS benefits if you live in Canada, are 65 years or older, and receive the OAS.

As of 2020, your income must be below:

  • $18,624: If you are single
  • $24,576: If your spouse receives the full OAS pension
  • $44,640: If your spouse does not receive OAS
  • $44,640: If your spouse receives the Allowance

The residency requirement for OAS means that if leave Canada for longer than 6 months, GIS payment stop.

How much will you get?

The maximum GIS amount for a single senior is $917.29.

If you have a spouse or common-law partner, and meet the income threshold, the maximum payout amounts are:

Your Situation
Maximum Monthly GIS
Your spouse receives the full OAS pension
$552.18
Your spouse does not receive OAS
$917.29
Your spouse receives the Allowance
$552.18

How to apply

You may be automatically enrolled for the GIS. If not, you will need to apply for it when completing your OAS application.

If you only need to apply for GIS, complete Form ISP-3025 online through your My Service Canada Account or mail it to a Service Canada office.

Allowance Benefits

If you are receiving the GIS, your spouse may be eligible for an Allowance benefit.

Who is eligible?

The Allowance is paid monthly if your spouse is 60-64 years old, is a Canadian citizen or legal resident, lives in Canada and has lived in Canada for 10 years as an adult, and your combined income is less than $34,416.

How much will you receive?

The maximum monthly Allowance benefit is $1,166.32. Payment stops the month after you turn 65.

How to apply

You must apply in writing and complete Forms ISP-3026 and ISP-3008.  Your application can be sent in 6-11 months before your 60th birthday.

An Allowance for the Survivor benefit is available to seniors who have lost their spouse, are aged 60 to 64 years, and that have an income less than $25,080.

The maximum monthly Allowance for the Survivor benefit is $1,390.30. You must apply in writing and complete Form ISP-3026 and Form ISP-3008.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

If you have worked in Canada and made contributions to the CPP during your working years, you may qualify for CPP benefits, including the:

The CPP retirement pension pays you a monthly benefit for life. You can start collecting it from age 60 or delay it until age 70.

In Quebec, this pension plan is referred to as the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for the CPP, you must be at least 60 years old and have contributed at least once to the plan.

How much will you get?

The CPP amount you receive depends on how much and how long you contributed, your average earnings while you were working, and the age you start to collect CPP.

For 2020, the maximum monthly CPP benefit at age 65 is $1,175.83 and the average is $710.41.

If you take CPP early at age 60, your benefits are lower. If you delay taking CPP past age 65 (the standard retirement age), your benefits increase.

If you qualify for other CPP benefits, the amount you receive in 2020 is:

CPP Benefit
Average Amount
Maximum Payment in 2020
Disability benefit
$1,023.20
$1,387.66
Survivor’s pension (<65 years)
$456.48
$638.28
Survivor’s pension (≥ 65 years)
$311.94
$705.50
Children’s benefit
$255.03
$255.03
Death benefit
$2,496.37
$2,500
Post-retirement benefit (at 65)
$13.37
$29.40

If you have contributed to a pension plan in a country that has a social security agreement with Canada, it may count towards your CPP contributions.

How to apply

You can apply online using your My Service Canada Account, or complete Form ISP-1000 and mail it to the nearest Service Canada office.

Related: Minimum Wage in Canada

Provincial Benefits for Seniors

Below is a list of benefits that may be available on a provincial level to senior immigrants.

Alberta Seniors Benefits

Benefits available to seniors in Alberta include:

  • Alberta Seniors Benefit
  • Supplementary Accommodation Benefit
  • Coverage for Seniors
  • Dental and Optical Assistance for Seniors
  • Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program
  • Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program

Get more details about these programs here.

British Columbia Seniors Benefits

British Columbia has the following benefits for low-income seniors:

  • Senior’s Supplement
  • Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER)
  • Social Assistance (EIA)
  • BC Bus Pass Program

Get more details here.

Manitoba Seniors Benefits

Seniors in Manitoba can access:

  • Manitoba 55 Plus
  • School Tax Assistance for Tenants 55 Plus (STAT 55+)
  • Rent Assist

Get more details on the government’s page.

Ontario Seniors Benefits

In Ontario, eligible seniors can access these programs:

  • Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS)
  • Trillium Drug Program
  • Electricity Support Program
  • Senior’s Public Transit Tax Credit
  • Home and Vehicle Modification Program
  • Senior Homeowner’s Property Tax Grant

Find out more about these programs here.

Saskatchewan Senior Benefits

The senior’s benefits available in Saskatchewan include the:

  • Seniors’ Income Plan
  • Personal Care Home Benefit (PCHB)
  • Senior’s Drug Plan
  • Life Lease Housing for Seniors

Find out more details.

Quebec Seniors Benefits

Low-income seniors in Quebec can access:

  • Prescription Drug Insurance Plan
  • Shelter Allowance Program
  • Grant for Seniors to Offset a Municipal Tax Increase

Find out more here.

New Brunswick Seniors Benefits

Eligible seniors in New Brunswick can access:

  • Low-Income Seniors’ Benefit
  • Property Tax Deferral Program for Seniors
  • Social Assistance Program

Here’s the government’s page.

Prince Edward Island Seniors Benefits

In PEI, you can take a look at the:

  • Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program
  • Seniors Home Repair Program
  • Seniors Safe at Home Program
  • Seniors’ Drug program

Learn more about the programs here.

Nova Scotia Seniors Benefits

In Nova Scotia, programs for low-income senior include:

  • Seniors’ Pharmacare Program
  • Property Tax Rebate for Seniors
  • Income Assistance Program

Here’s a listing of Nova Scotia’s benefit program by TaxTips.

Newfoundland and Labrador Seniors Benefits

For Newfoundland and Labrador, take a look at the:

  • NL Seniors’ Benefit
  • Home Repair and Home Modification Program
  • Home Energy Savings Program
  • Special Assistance Program

Learn more about NL’s seniors’ benefit program.

Northwest Territories Seniors Benefits

Non-Native and Metis seniors who reside in the Northwest Territories may be eligible for the Extended Health Benefits for Seniors Program.

Other benefits that may be applicable are:

  • Senior Home Heating Subsidy
  • Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit

Yukon Seniors Benefits

In the Yukon, low-income seniors may be eligible for:

  • Yukon Seniors Income Supplement
  • Extended Health Care Benefits
  • Yukon Supplementary Allowance

Check the eligibility details.

Conclusion

Immigrants have access to other sources of retirement income including workplace pensions, the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), and Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).

You can explore these accounts further by checking on the links below:

Here’s also a guide to retirement income in Canada.