“Do I need health insurance when I arrive in Canada as a new immigrant?”
This is a question we hear all the time. The confusion often stems from the fact that Canada’s is well-known around the world for having a robust publicly-funded healthcare system that gives Canadians access to certain medical services for “free” (healthcare is paid through taxes, so you’ll feel the cost in your paycheque).
But, how do you get access to this healthcare system? And what do you do if you can’t access it?
Well, that’s what we’re here to answer. In short, your access to Canada’s publicly-funded healthcare system depends on two things:
New residents to Canada get different access to healthcare depending on their immigration status. For example, visitors don’t get any access to the publicly-funded healthcare system, so all visitors are encouraged to buy private health insurance. (You can get a free quote for insurance through the company, Cigna, here.) Meanwhile, permanent residents, like those admitted through the Express Entry system, receive the same access to healthcare as Canadian citizens… except for one tiny problem:
Sometimes new immigrants who should, in theory, have access to the Canadian healthcare system, have to wait a few weeks or months after they arrive in Canada before they gain access to the publicly-funded system. The length of this delay, or whether or not there is even a delay, depends on the province in which the newcomer chooses to reside.
For example, in Ontario, new residents with permanent resident status need to wait three months to gain access to the publicly-funded system, while in Nova Scotia, the same group of people gain access as of their first day as residents.
You might be wondering what the situation is for you. For the rest of this article, we’re going to break down what to expect for healthcare in your first few months in Canada. First, we’re going to review what to expect for different types of immigration status. Second, we’re going to review what to expect in each province.
If you’re looking to find information about insurance rates for your situation, we recommend getting a free quote from Cigna. Cigna is an insurance provider we trust and you can get a free quote simply by completing this quick form.
Immigration status: Health insurance requirements for your first months in Canada
If you are not yet in Canada, but you’re planning on arriving soon, consult this list of common types of immigration status to figure out your health insurance needs for your first months in Canada.
International Experience Canada (IEC) - including the Working Holiday program
If you’re planning to come to Canada on an IEC work permit, your insurance needs are very straightforward. You need to purchase private insurance for the full duration of your IEC work permit.
If you’re eligible for a 12-month work permit, you need to have a 12-month insurance policy when you land in Canada. The same goes for those of you eligible for a 24-month work permit — you’ll need to get a policy of 24 months’ duration. If you show up with a six-month policy, your work permit will only be issued for a six-month period, with no option to extend it later on. If you show up in Canada without any insurance, you’re going to be turned away.
Get a free quote for insurance rates by completing this quick form offered by Cigna, an insurance provider we trust.
Permanent residents (Express Entry, Family Class, PNPs, and more!)
You’ve been approved for permanent resident status? Congrats! We know those applications aren’t easy, so good work on getting to this stage.
As you’ve probably heard a thousand times already, “as a permanent resident, you get full access to the publicly-funded Canadian healthcare system.” But, be careful for your first few months, as you might not have the medical coverage you think you do.
Yes, as a permanent resident, you gain access to Canada’s healthcare system. However, you need to register with your province or territory of residence in order to access the system. In some provinces and territories, it takes time to register for healthcare. During this time, it may be a good idea to purchase private insurance coverage to ensure that you’re covered in the event of any healthcare needs.
To find out the process for your province or territory, skip below to our province-by-province listings for health insurance requirements.
As a super visa holder, you absolutely need to purchase private insurance coverage for at least one year from your date of entry to Canada. It doesn’t matter where you plan to reside in Canada, you’ve got to have insurance to get into the country, so make sure you’ve got it!
Temporary workers (except IEC)
If you’re coming to Canada as a temporary worker (except for IEC), you may qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance or you may need private insurance. However, some employer-based work permits require that your employer makes sure you have access to insurance, either from the public system or through a private policy.
As such, one way to start researching your options is by asking your employer about health insurance. You can also consult the list of provinces below to find out if you’ll get access to the publicly-funded system.
Coming to study in Canada? You’re in for a wild ride, with some great schools and even better student life. But, what about insurance?
International students are required to have insurance for the full duration of their study permits. Most international students have to purchase private health insurance coverage, although a handful of provinces enable international students to opt in to the publicly-funded system.
Many of Canada’s schools offer international students insurance packages organized through the school itself. This removes the hassle of finding a quality provider, though it does not guarantee the best coverage or the most affordable rate.
If you are planning to study in Canada, you should check first with your school. They should be able to give you detailed insurance information and recommendations for international students in your exact position!
Visitors and tourists
As a visitor or tourist to Canada, you should make sure you have insurance coverage in case anything goes wrong with your trip. Unexpected medical procedures can set you back thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, so you’re better safe than sorry. As with almost all insurance we buy in our lives, you might be tempted to skip out and risk it, but you’ll rest easier with the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you’re covered.
Get a free quote for travel insurance by completing this quick form offered by Cigna, an insurance provider we trust.