I’m a newcomer to Canada, am I eligible to open an RDSP?

The RDSP is a financial product administered by the Canadian federal government. Individuals are eligible if:

  • They qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). 
  • Are a Canadian resident under the age of 60. 
  • Have a valid SIN (temporary or permanent)

This means that you are eligible to apply even if you are not a Canadian citizen. For example, individuals with permanent residency status are eligible to apply. 

A person is considered a resident in Canada for RDSP purposes if that person is also considered a resident for income tax purposes. The most important thing to consider when determining your residency status in Canada for income tax purposes is whether or not you have residential ties with Canada. This can mean many things but can include: having a home in Canada, having a spouse or common-law partner in Canada, or having dependents in Canada. Other factors, such as personal property, are also important in determining your residency status. For more information, we recommend reviewing the guidance from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) here. If you are not sure of your residency status, you can complete Form NR73, Determination of Residency Status (Leaving Canada), available here

The beneficiary of an RDSP must be residing in Canada to allow the following:

  • RDSP setup (unless the RDSP is being established by way of a transfer from an existing RDSP);
  • contributions into an RDSP;
  • bonds to be deposited into the RDSP (must be residing in Canada immediately before receiving any annual bond); and
  • rollover of Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), Registered Pension Plan (RPP), Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP), Specified Pension Plan (SPP), or Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) proceeds into the RDSP.

Residency in Canada is not required:

  • for the holder to open an RDSP on behalf of the beneficiary;
  • for the beneficiary to receive DAP or LDAP withdrawals (Disability Assistance Payments/Lifetime Disability Assistance Payments) from the RDSP.

For further information on Canadian residency, contact the International Tax Services Office, CRA at
1-855-284-5942 (toll-free in Canada and the United States), or 613-940-8495 (for service in English), or
613-940-8496 (for service in French).


How does the RDSP work if I am a dual-citizen with Canada and another country?

The most important factor to consider is residency status. If you spend the majority of your time living in another country, you may not be seen as a Canadian resident and therefore not eligible for the RDSP. 

You also may need to check whether your citizenship status with another country requires you to report or pay tax on your activity in Canada. For example, U.S. citizens and Canadian/U.S. dual-citizens are required to report income growth in their RDSP annually. For more information on U.S. citizenship status and the RDSP, please review our guidance here

What happens if I leave Canada?

If you leave Canada permanently or spend a significant amount of time outside of Canada (generally more than half the calendar year), you may be seen as a ‘non-resident’ for tax purposes. As a non-resident of Canada, you will lose the ability to contribute to your RDSP and to receive government grants and bonds. 

Even though you are a non-resident, you still need to pay tax on income you receive from sources in Canada, such as RDSPs. The type of tax you pay and the requirement to file an income tax return will depend on the type of income you receive. It will also depend on what international tax agreements exist between Canada and the country you are a resident of. 

You will also need to check with the financial institution that holds your RDSP. Most will continue to hold your RDSP as long as they have an address to send you details about the account. If you are making withdrawals from your RDSP, you will also need to confirm whether those payments need to be paid into a Canadian bank account or if they can be sent to an alternative institution in a different country. The beneficiary is not required to be a resident of Canada to receive payments from an RDSP. 

We recommend reading more guidance from the CRA here and contacting your financial institution to confirm their rules. 

For more information, contact our toll-free helpline on 1-844-311-7526, or email us at info@rdsp.com


Can a non-Canadian medical practitioner certify my Disability Tax Credit application? / Can medical records from another country be used as part of a DTC application? 

Qualifying for the Disability Tax Credit is a crucial step for setting up your RDSP and a medical practitioner is required to certify a DTC application. In general, the CRA reviews all DTC applications it receives on a case-by-case basis. From our experience working with the CRA, there are some general guiding points that can help with a higher likelihood of your DTC application being successful: 

  • Canadian medical practitioners, specifically those certified in the territory or province you live in, are generally the most appropriate individuals to complete the DTC form. This is in accordance with the definitions outlined in the Income Tax Act. 
  • The CRA will generally not approve you for the DTC for years you spent living in another country. If you have a medical history that outlines your disability for those previous years, it may still be beneficial to provide these to your medical practitioner in Canada as part of your submission. The medical practitioner will need to review these and decide what is applicable in your situation. Provide as much information as you can about your situation. 
  • If the medical practitioner certifying your DTC application decides to submit additional information relating to your past medical history to the CRA, any documents must be translated into English or French. The CRA does not have the capacity to translate documents from other languages. 
  • In the minority of cases, some medical practitioners from other countries can certify DTC forms. This will depend on your living arrangements, e.g. if you spend a lot of time outside of Canada, and what tax treaties exist between Canada and the other countries you spend time in. The U.S., for example, does have a tax treaty with Canada which allows for some considerations when applying for the DTC with a U.S. based medical practitioner. This is not guaranteed in all circumstances, however. 
  • As with any DTC application, it is important to have recent and up-to-date information on the disability and how it affects daily life. If you are using medical information that is old, it may not be considered recent enough for your application.

Be prepared! The process of being approved may take a lot longer than normal. Be prepared to have multiple consultations with the CRA and your medical practitioner in Canada over a number of months. 

If your medical practitioner has not heard of the DTC, it may be helpful to explain to them what the DTC is and why it is important. Helpful information is available on our DTC Guides here

If you have recently moved to Canada and are applying for the DTC, we recommend that you get support from a disability organization. Contact our toll-free helpline on 1-844-311-7526, or email us at info@rdsp.com for more information.

Am I eligible for grants and bonds in my RDSP for years I was living in another country? 

Generally, no. The CRA will generally only approve individuals for the DTC for the years spent living in Canada. Even if your disability existed before you moved to Canada, it is unlikely that you will be eligible to claim the DTC for those years. Since you are only eligible for grants and bonds in the years you are eligible to claim the DTC, you will be unable to claim grants and bonds for those years. 

For more information, contact our toll-free helpline on 1-844-311-7526, or email us at info@rdsp.com