Requirements to Open a TFSA
A TFSA is meant to be accessible to pretty much all Canadians, so the requirements are pretty straightforward. In order to open a TFSA, you must be least 18 years old and have a valid Canadian social insurance number (SIN). Your SIN is important as TFSAs are registered (much like RRSPs). That is, TFSAs are registered with the federal government of Canada.
In some provinces and territories, the age of majority is actually 19, which means if you are 18 you can still set up a TFSA account, just not deposit any money into it until you turn 19. However you can accumulate the contribution room for that 1 year so that when you finally do start making deposits, you have space for an extra $6500. So, if you are turning 18 and want to make the TFSA rules work for you, at least set it up as soon as you are allowed to!
To open a TFSA account, contact your bank or credit union and they will let you know what specific documents you need. If you choose to go the self-directed TFSA route, do your online research first! You will need to bring some form of ID and know your SIN.
Your bank or credit union will then register your account with the federal government. If your account is not registered for some reason (for example, you gave false information to your bank) then any income you earn in that account won’t be protected as a TFSA; in other words you will have to count it on your income tax return!
Non-residents of Canada
If you are non-resident of Canada (for example, you’re a Canadian citizen but live in the US), you can still open a TFSA account, but there are tax consequences. In a nutshell, you will have to pay a tax of 1% per month on anything you contribute (there are some exceptions such as contributions coming from deceased holders’ TFSAs). Also, you can’t accumulate the usual annual contribution room that Canadian residents can.