Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Overview

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.

Before you apply for a SIN

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.

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, you need to change your study permit conditions, which follows the same process as a study permit extension. An example is if you previously studied English as an additional language and are now a degree-seeking student.

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

Applying for a SIN as an international student

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

If you are outside of Canada and you have a study or work permit, you can apply online for a new or extended SIN or confirmation of a SIN, even if you do not have a Canadian mailing address.

In addition to your study or work permit, you will need your passport and proof of address. If the document is not in English or French, you will need to translate the document.

Apply for a SIN

Type of work permitted

If you meet the work eligibility requirement and you’ve applied for the SIN, you can work for a job that is considered insurable employment. Insurable employment is work under the authority of an employer in Canada who controls your wages, hours, and tasks.

Typical processing times

  • Online applications may take 15 business days.
  • Mail applications may take 25 business days.
  • If you applied in person, you’ll receive the SIN during your visit.

If your application has exceeded normal processing times and you have not received a letter, please contact the SIN Program.

Your SIN digits after applying

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 valid

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

Extending your SIN

Make sure you keep your SIN valid by extending 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 have already received a SIN from your study permit, you do not need to apply for a SIN again. 

To extend your SIN, follow the same steps as applying for a new SIN number.

Maintained 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 "maintained status" so long as you stay in Canada.

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.

If you have questions

If you would like to contact SIN, you can do it online, by phone, by mail or in-person.

For questions related to immigration, health insurance, and life as an international student in Canada, connect with International Student Advising.

International Student Guide

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

View the guide