Social Insurance Number (SIN)

What is a Social Insurance Number?

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9-digit number issued by Service Canada, a Canadian government department. You need a SIN before starting work in Canada, to file taxes as well as access government programs and benefits, if eligible. You will also need to provide your SIN to UBC for tax purposes. 

Certain students who are not eligible for a SIN, such as exchange students without a study permit, can get an Individual Tax Number (ITN) instead.

If you’re an international student, having a SIN alone is not enough to allow you to work in Canada. Make sure you are eligible to work in Canada.

How to apply

Domestic students

If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you’ll need to provide certain documents for your application. See how to apply for your SIN. You can also apply from outside of Canada.  

International students

You can only get your SIN after you’ve arrived in Canada since you first need to get your study permit at the airport or border crossing before you can apply.

It‘s very important to follow a few steps to make sure your study permit allows you to work in Canada and to get a SIN.

See arrival steps

Check your study permit conditions

To be eligible for a SIN, you must have a study permit with at least one of the following conditions:

  • “May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria, per paragraph R186(f), (v) or (w) and must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria”
  • “May work 20 hours per week off campus or full time during regular breaks if meeting criteria outlined in paragraph 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations”
  • “May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies"

You can also apply if you have a work permit, such as a co-op work permit, a Post-Graduation Work Permit, or a spousal work permit.

If your study permit does not state you can work

If you’re eligible to work in Canada as a student, but you do not have one of the conditions on your study permit listed above, you’ll need to either “amend” or “change the conditions” of your study permit depending on your situation:

  • If there was a mistake when you were issued the study permit, you need to amend your study permit.
  • If your situation has changed and you’ve now switched to a program which  makes you eligible to work off-campus, for example you previously studied English as an additional language and are now a degree-seeking student, you need to change your study permit conditions, which is the same process as a study permit extension.

You can apply for a SIN after you’ve received your new study permit with conditions allowing you to work. 

How to apply for a SIN as an international student

We recommend you apply for a SIN online. You can also apply by mail or request an in-person appointment if you face barriers applying online.

In addition to your study or work permit, you will need your passport and proof of address.

Apply for a SIN

Keeping your SIN valid

Your SIN will usually have the same expiry date as your study or work permit. 

Renewing your SIN

Make sure you keep your SIN valid by renewing your SIN each time you extend your temporary residency in Canada, such as getting your extended study permit or your Post-Graduation Work Permit.  If you get a co-op work permit and already received a SIN from your study permit, you do not need to apply for a SIN again. 

Extending your SIN

  • If you are inside of Canada, follow the same steps as applying for a new SIN number
  • If you are outside of Canada, you can apply by mail

Implied Status

If you applied for a new study or work permit before your current document became invalid and you haven’t received your new document yet, you can continue to use the same SIN while you are waiting for your permit to be issued while on "implied status" so long as you stay in Canada.

Your SIN digits

International students get a SIN starting with the number "9", which lets employers know that you are a temporary resident in Canada. 

Your SIN will remain the same unless you become a permanent resident, in which case you can apply for a new SIN which doesn’t start with the number ‘9’.

Keeping your SIN safe

Your SIN is considered to be sensitive personal information which should not be shared—be sure to protect your SIN. Beware of fraudulent phone calls or emails asking for your SIN or any other personal information.

International Student Guide

Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at UBC's Vancouver campus.

View the guide

If you have questions

International Student Advising is ready to support you on questions related to immigration, health insurance, and life as an international student in Canada.

Connect with an advisor