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COVID-19 has rattled travel industries around the world, leaving many travellers delaying upcoming trips or scrambling to get home from their trips as borders tighten. As Canadian travel restrictions tighten, travellers have been feeling the impact when trying to buy travel insurance for Canada during COVID-19. 

The shockwaves of coronavirus have been apparent in industry, as well. Irish insurance juggernaut, USIT, went out of business in late March citing this was “a result of the Covid-19 situation.” While USIT has left travellers stranded, there are precautions you can take to find reliable travel insurance during this time. For updates to Canada’s travel restrictions and tips on when to reschedule your trips and buy insurance, sign up for our mailing list below.

If you are planning to travel to Canada or you’re already in Canada, you should always be sure you have appropriate travel insurance to cover you in case something goes wrong. Indeed, depending on your immigration program it may even be mandatory to take out insurance. In the age of COVID-19, being confident in your travel insurance coverage is more important than ever. In this article, we answer the most common questions we’ve been receiving about travel insurance for Canada during COVID-19.

Overview: What changes have occurred in the Canadian travel insurance industry due to COVID-19?

Travel insurance for Canada during COVID-19 is restricted, and accessing it will take more work than before the crisis. Bob Hornal from BestQuote, a prominent insurance option for travellers to Canada, told Moving2Canada, “At this time, the majority of our visitors-to-Canada medical insurance policies are still covering claims for the coronavirus.” But, Bob warned, buyers need to be cautious, “Since the start of April some of our insurers have begun to limit this type of coverage.  Depending on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, more insurers may add exclusions for the coronavirus over the next few months.”

Many insurance companies, especially those providing coverage for international travel, have stopped issuing policies altogether for international travel. Many companies still issuing policies have introduced exclusions limiting coverage related to COVID-19, especially limiting emergency medical coverage for individuals who travel to areas affected by the coronavirus.

TrueTraveller, for example, is a popular insurance provider for participants in Canada’s Working Holiday program that has joined the long list of insurers unable (for now) to provide coverage for COVID-19-related claims, “For all policies, or extension policies issued from 13:00 GMT on 16 March 2020, no cover is available for any claims relating to Coronavirus or any mutation of it.” Fast Cover, an insurance provider for Australians travelling to Canada, has announced that they cannot issue any new policies for those departing for travel prior to October 1, 2020.

I am outside Canada, but planning to travel to Canada in the near future.

What kind of travel insurance do I need and which insurance providers will cover me during COVID-19?

Step One: Make sure you can and should travel to Canada.

First of all, please be aware that Canada has closed its borders to the majority of foreign nationals until after the COVID-19 health crisis is under control. There are a handful of exemptions to this rule, listed here. Even if you meet an exemption, you should only travel to Canada if it is absolutely necessary.

Step Two: If you plan on travelling, make sure that your policy provides coverage for claims relating to COVID-19.

Health Canada rates COVID-19 as a high risk to Canadians. Since the health crisis is widespread across Canada and anyone in Canada is at high risk, you should ensure that you have an insurance policy which covers claims related to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, buying an insurance policy that provides COVID-19-related coverage may be easier said than done. Be sure to check, double-check, and triple-check your coverage before purchasing and travelling to Canada.

“Aside from checking to see if a policy still covers the coronavirus, it is now more important than ever to purchase the right kind of coverage,” advises Bob Hornal from BestQuote. “The cheaper policies do not cover pre-existing conditions.  For younger travellers, this is normally not an issue. However, if you do have a chronic condition like asthma or diabetes, you need to purchase a policy that will cover any complications related to stable pre-existing medical conditions.  Otherwise, if you purchase a cheaper policy and are then unfortunate enough to contract the coronavirus, you may find that you are not covered due to your underlying medical condition.”

It is important that you verify that your policy includes coverage for COVID-19. Don’t see any mention of COVID-19 on your policy? Call or write to the company to confirm their coverage for COVID-19, and make sure you get it in writing!

Step Three: Make sure your policy is legitimate. 

Unfortunately, times of crisis often result in increased scams. There are a range of travel insurance scams cropping up in response to COVID-19. Be careful to avoid these scammers if you’re purchasing travel insurance during these unsteady times.

Always do your research before buying. Look into the company offering the policy: What are their reviews like online? Do they have years of reputable reviews? Or, does it seem like they just appeared on the market recently?

Look into the policy itself: Read the whole policy. Yes. The whole thing. Make sure that claims related to COVID-19 will be covered. Scan through for exceptions. Be vigilant, be your own detective!

When it comes to insurance scams, the most important rule is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I am applying for IEC, including the Working Holiday.

Should I buy my travel insurance now, during COVID-19?

If you’re planning to come to Canada through International Experience Canada (IEC), including the Working Holiday program, then purchasing an insurance policy is a mandatory part of the process. But! Don’t be fooled. You only need your insurance policy when you travel to Canada, so you don’t need to purchase it too far in advance of your departure to Canada.

For this reason, you can wait to purchase your insurance until closer to your travels. Besides, many travel insurance providers have stopped issuing new travel insurance policies for the time being.

Unless your travel is absolutely necessary, we do not recommend travelling to Canada until COVID-19 has calmed down. (And by calmed down, we mean an easing of travel restrictions, no mandatory quarantine for those who can and choose to travel, and fewer restrictions around social and business activity.)

Take note: Individuals holding a Port of Entry Letter of Introduction (POE letter) are listed as exempt from Canada’s travel restrictions. However, a source from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has confirmed that would-be IEC travellers are being denied boarding on flights and entry at the land border. In particular, our CBSA source indicated that IEC applicants who don’t already have a job lined up and place to live will likely be refused entry by CBSA as non-essential for now, regardless of whether a POE letter has been issued. If you choose to travel to Canada at this time, your entry is not guaranteed.

I am inside Canada and have travel insurance. Am I covered for claims related to COVID-19?

Every insurance policy is different. The only way to know the answer to this question is to check your policy and confirm coverage with your provider. If you’re not sure about your coverage, it is important to contact your provider directly and confirm what will happen if you need to make a claim related to COVID-19.

Many insurance providers give travellers a specific window of time to return from a country where a travel advisory has been issued. After this window ends, the provider will no longer cover claims. This has implications for travellers around the world, including those in Canada. Be cautious and ensure that if you remain abroad, that you remain covered.

When will it be a good time to buy travel insurance for Canada?

How we wish we could answer this question. Unfortunately, the ambiguity surrounding the duration of the COVID-19 health crisis makes accurate forecasting difficult, and the best time to buy insurance will vary depending on your unique situation. Keep monitoring the Government of Canada for updates to health and travel advisories.

You can also stay up to date on the latest updates to Canada’s COVID-related travel restrictions by following our COVID-19 newsfeed.