Apply for a Social Insurance Number in Canada as Students

writer icon

Allaa Ashraf

calender icon

10 September, 2023

time icon

4 mins read

time icon

Tips and Advice

Share NOW

fav icon
main topic image

As an international student in Canada, getting a Social Insurance Number (SIN) is an essential step in your journey towards effective integration into Canadian society. The SIN, a unique nine-digit identifier issued by the Canadian government, not only allows you to work, receive benefits, and access various government services but also unlocks many opportunities during your academic and professional endeavours in the country. In this detailed guide, we'll walk you through the relatively straightforward application process to get a SIN number in Canada for international students, ensuring you're well-equipped to see this through. Come on, let’s go!

SIN number in Canada

First Things First, What is a SIN, Exactly?

A SIN is a nine-digit number that is used to track your employment and contributions to government programs in Canada. It is required for most jobs in Canada, as well as for certain government benefits and services.

Who Needs a SIN?

International students who are authorised to work in Canada need a SIN. This includes students who are working on or off campus.

Why is SIN Important for International Students?

Before delving into the application process, it's crucial to understand why a SIN is such an important asset for international students. This document is a social insurance number (SIN), a nine-digit number that acts as a gateway to numerous benefits, including legal employment, access to government programmes and benefits, and eligibility for Canadian tax credits. With your SIN in hand, you'll be better positioned to fully participate in Canada's social and economic fabric.

Eligibility Criteria for International Students

International students in Canada are qualified to apply for an SIN if they meet specific conditions. You're eligible if you have been authorised to work in Canada by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and have either a valid study permit or a valid work permit.

How to Apply for a SIN Number in Canada for International Students

SIN number in Canada

Preparing Required Documents

To initiate your SIN application, you'll need to assemble certain documents to prove your identity and eligibility. The required documents for a SIN application vary depending on your situation. However, you will typically need to provide the following documents:

  • A valid passport or travel document

  • A valid IRCC-issued study permit or work permit that shows you are authorised to work in Canada

  • A document that states your legal status in Canada (such as your confirmation of enrollment from your school or your job offer letter)

  • Proof of identity, such as a birth certificate or driver's licence

  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill or lease agreement

Applying for a SIN in Canada as a Student

There are three ways to apply for a SIN: online, via mail, or in person at a Service Canada Centre. Here's a breakdown of the three options:

1. In-Person Application

Here’s how to apply for a SIN in person:

  • Visit a Service Canada Centre nearest to your location

  • Bring all the required documents mentioned above

  • Fill out the SIN application form provided

A Service Canada agent will review your documents, verify your identity, and process your application.

SIN number in Canada

2. Mail-In Application

If visiting a Service Canada Centre is not feasible because of your busy college schedule, you can apply by mail. The steps are:

  • Download the SIN application form from the Service Canada website

  • Fill out the application accurately

  • Gather the required documents

  • Mail the completed application form and original documents to the nearest Service Canada Centre

3. Online Application

This one is quite simple. Here are the steps for it:

  • Go to the Service Canada website.

  • Click on the "Apply for a SIN" link.

  • Create an account or sign in to your existing account.

  • Complete the application form.

  • Upload the required documents.

  • Submit your application.

Processing Time

The processing time for a SIN application is typically 2-4 weeks. However, it may take longer if your application is incomplete or if there are any problems with your documents.

SIN number in Canada

Where to Get Help

If you need help applying for a SIN, you can contact Service Canada for assistance. You can also contact your school's international student office for help.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid during your application:

1. Making a mistake on your application form: Be sure to fill out the application form carefully and double-check all of your information before submitting it. Any errors on your application form could delay the processing of your application or even result in a refusal.

2. Not bringing the correct documentation to your appointment: When you apply for a SIN in person, you must bring the originals of all of the required documents. Be sure to have these documents ready when you arrive at your appointment.

3. Not being prepared to answer questions about your work eligibility: When you apply for a SIN, you will be asked questions about your work eligibility in Canada. Be sure to be prepared to answer these questions in order to expedite the processing of your application.

SIN Renewal and Updating

If you want to update or renew your SIN, here are the steps for it:

1. Check the expiry date: Your SIN will expire five years after it is issued.

2. Get a renewal form: There might be specific forms to fill out for SIN renewal. The Service Canada staff will guide you through the process and provide you with the necessary forms.

3. Submit your application: Once you have gathered the required documents and chosen a method of application, you can submit your application.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips for applying for a SIN as an international student:

  • Start the application process as soon as possible. This will give you enough time to get your SIN before you start working.

  • Make sure you have all the required documents. You can find a list of the required documents on the Service Canada website.

  • If you're uncomfortable communicating in English or French, consider having someone accompany you to help with translation during the in-person application.

  • Once you've applied, receiving your SIN typically takes about three weeks. If you intend to work or apply for other services requiring a SIN, ensure you plan ahead.

And there you have it!

That was your cheat sheet on applying for a SIN number in Canada for international students.

Being a student in Canada is a great experience. Canadian universities are world-renowned for their quality education, and the country is home to a diverse and welcoming population. International students can also work up to 20 hours per week while they study, which helps them cover their living expenses and gain valuable work experience.

Additional cheat sheets to help make your time in Canada smooth include A Guide to Student Medical Insurance in Canada and The Best Student Banks in Canada. Bon chance!


Subscribe to download

Frequently Asked Questions

Can students get a SIN number in Canada?

down icon

Yes, students can get a SIN number in Canada. In fact, if you plan to work in Canada during your studies, you need a SIN number. You also need a SIN number to apply for certain government programmes, such as student loans and grants.

How long does it take to get a SIN?

down icon

If you apply online or by mail, it usually takes about 10 business days to receive your SIN. If you apply in person, it usually takes about 2 business days to receive your SIN.

What can I do with my SIN?

down icon

You can use your SIN for the following purposes:

  • To work in Canada

  • To apply for government programmes

  • To file taxes

  • To open a bank account

  • To get a credit card