Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of Names, Date of Birth and Sex (Gender)

It can be difficult to interpret the wide range of legal documents. We have complied a list of guidelines to help you improve the accuracy of your data submission. 

I - Purpose

To ensure:

  1. A student’s legal name, date of birth and sex (gender) are used on British Columbia ministry student records
  2. Names, dates of birth and sex (gender) on the PEN Database reflect information appearing on acceptable official documents relating to civil (e.g. immigration/citizenship) status
  3. Information and documents are valid for the creation of a PEN
  4. Names, date of birth and sex, which appear on an acceptable official document are coded in the PEN Database including spacing, spelling and punctuation

II - Acceptable Documents Proof of Name, Date of Birth, and Sex (Gender)

Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents must provide Canadian documentation as listed in the following table. Foreign documentation will only be accepted for International students. Please ensure the documentation used contains the most current name format.

Canadian Citizens / Permanent Residents International Students
Permanent Residence Card Birth Certificate (with English translation)
Provincial Identification Card Passport or Visa
Passport Student / Study Permit
Canadian Birth Certificate Immigration papers
BC Services Card  (Photo version only)  
Marriage Certificate  
Indian Status Card  
Canadian Citizenship Card  
Canadian Driver’s License  
Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM5292)  
Canadian Immigration Record of Landing (IMM 1000, not valid after June 2002)  
Canadian adoption order  
Canadian court order approving legal change of name  


  • If there are differences between legal documents in the spelling or use of names, date of birth or sex (gender), the document that has the most recent date of issue must be used.
  • If there are differences between information written on a school application/registration form and the information on the acceptable official document, use the information as it appears on the acceptable official document.
    * When entering student information into the School’s Student Administrative System, please be advised that on the Immigration Papers (Record of Landing)
    - Box 2 contains family name
    - Box 3 contains given names
    - Box 4 can not be used for legal name(s)
    When Immigration Canada inputs this information, the given names are generally considered to be the first and middle name of the student. Schools should enter the student’s name according to these rules. (Please see Section IV for detailed information)
    * When entering student information into the School’s Student Administrative System, please be advised that on the Chinese citizenship card
    - In the name field the last name is listed first followed by given name

III - Legal Surname

Schools must enter a student’s entire legal surname. If more than one name appears, the order of names must reflect that appearing on the acceptable official document.

  • Married women can use their maiden name, or a married name as their legal family name. However, the name used must be that provided on the acceptable official document. A copy of the marriage certificate is required.

IV - Legal Given Names (First and Middle)

Students must provide all of their legal given names. If more then one name appears on a student’s acceptable official document, the order of names must reflect that appearing on the acceptable official document

  • Use the complete name that is on the acceptable official document in the appropriate legal name fields and the preferred name in the usual name fields.
  • Hyphenated given names should be coded as one name (e.g. Jean-Francois)
  • Continuous vs. hyphenated names. Sometimes the given name that a student enters on a registration form does not match their official document. For example: the given names on the official document are detached yet the student runs them together (Xiao Xin – Xiaoxin). Or conversely, the given name is concatenated and the student separates them (Xiaoxin – Xiao Xin). Code what is on the official document, not what the student writes on the registration form.
  • No nicknames or short forms are allowed in the legal name fields (e.g. Sofia, Jess)


Name(s) on official Document Legal First Name(s) Legal Middle Name(s)
Sofia Jessica Clarke Sofia Jessica
Jonathan William Joseph Jonathan William Joseph Anthony
Anthony Macdonald    
Wu Yee Ling Sandra Yee Ling Sandra
  • The ministry will only accept information reflecting that contained within the acceptable official documents. If a student does not have a middle name, the legal middle name field must remain blank.


  • Students with Asian heritage often have multiple names, which together make up a single given name.

Foreign Documentation:

  • When using foreign documentation there are often problems with interpretation. Clarification should be obtained before submitting names to the ministry. • Some countries may place the surname first (e.g. Lao is the surname in Lao Sun Lee Hung)
  • It is difficult to know when two given names are really one multipart name; clarification should be obtained from a second acceptable legal document or the parent(s) before submitting data to the ministry

V - Usual Names

The ministry records a student’s usual name(s) in our Usual Name fields. A usual name is the name that the student would prefer to be called by.


Name(s) on Official Document Usual First Name
Sofia Jessica Clarke Jess


  • Flag name(s) (Box 4) displayed on the Immigration document may be used in the usual name fields only. Immigration Canada will not confirm whether names contained in Box 4 relate to surnames or first names, therefore clarification should be obtained before submitting data to the ministry.
  • Name(s) referred to in the Remarks area of the Immigration document, which indicates, “…the name(s) should read…” or “…the client’s full name is…” may also be usual names and may appear in the usual name fields only. Clarification should be obtained before submitting data to the ministry.

VI - Date of Birth

Date of Birth information must reflect the information on the acceptable official document.

If a student submits a passport, use the birth date on the passport.

On the Record of Landing, Student Permits, and Confirmation of Permanent Residence forms, the
date of birth is clearly stated under “Date of Birth or Date de Naissance.” They follow the
format of “Day / Month / Year.” Please enter this information instead of using the information
provided by the student on his/her application form.

VII - Sex (Gender)

The sex (gender) should be coded as it appears on the official document. On the Immigration Papers the gender is contained in Box 8 and indicated by a number 1 or 2. A number 1 means the person is male, the number 2 means the person is female.

VIII - Change of Information

Related to Name, Date of Birth, or Sex (Gender)

Examples of situations when a change to the data in the PEN database may be requested:

  • Information on an official immigration document was in error and has been corrected by Immigration Canada. The student must provide the ministry with the new corrected immigration papers in order to make a change.
  • Name has been changed officially and student provides a copy of the court order approving legal change of name or legal name change certificate. 
  • Name was incorrectly entered by the ministry and does not reflect what is on the official document.

    Note: If the name in the PEN database is incorrect, it is the responsibility of the school to send the ministry a copy of the legal documentation, according to the Acceptable Documentary Proof of Name, Date of Birth and Sex (Gender) documents listed in Section II above, for confirmation.

A student requests his/her PEN from the ministry in order to return to school and the student’s name, date of birth or sex has changed. The student requesting his/her PEN would then be asked to provide the Ministry with updated legal documentation that shows the changes to the name, date of birth, or sex (gender).