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If you’re moving to Canada under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, you need to take out the right IEC health insurance policy.

The 2024 IEC season is open as of December 11, 2023. The first invitation rounds have taken place during the week of January 8, 2024. Check if you’re eligible for the 2024 IEC program by taking our free Canadian Immigration Quiz.

 

Getting appropriate IEC health insurance is a crucial step in your pre-arrival journey, but knowing exactly what type of insurance you need and what your options are can be a headache. This guide will help you understand exactly what IEC health insurance is, and which providers can cover you so you can get on with the fun stuff — living and working in Canada!

This is the insurance you need for the 2024 IEC Working Holiday

You have heard or read that you need travel insurance before arriving in Canada under the IEC program. This is confusing. Once upon a time, the Government of Canada actually used the term ‘travel insurance’ in some communications to IEC candidates. Insurance providers and publishers hopped on this and marketed policies or developed guides specifying the need for travel insurance.

More recently, the Government has been clearer in its messaging, specifying that IEC health insurance is what you should be looking for. This makes sense, because the minimum coverage you need is related to healthcare, not travel. More on that in the next section.

Insurance providers, however, may continue to market insurance policies under the banner of IEC travel insurance, rather than IEC health insurance, even though the coverage may be health-related (confusing, eh?). So, it’s essential to look at what you’re potentially buying, as it needs to cover certain health-related eventualities.

What does IEC health insurance need to cover?

Your IEC health insurance must cover:

  • medical care,
  • hospitalization, and
  • repatriation (returning you to your country in the event of severe illness, injury, or death).

Don’t purchase a policy that does not clearly cover all of the above.

Thankfully, the Government of Canada is clear on what your IEC health insurance needs to cover at a minimum.

In addition, many IEC participants may choose to purchase additional coverage for certain possible outcomes. One example is additional winter sports coverage.

Pro tip: make sure sports coverage covers health outcomes specifically, as some insurance providers may market such additional coverage that only covers outcomes such as lost, stolen, or damaged property. (Don’t be that person who racked up a mega-hospital bill but had “winter sports” coverage that covered only property).

And, while winter sports coverage may be advised for those hitting the slopes, note that it is not a requirement.

Where to get IEC health insurance

The Government of Canada has put this task squarely on you to figure out, with the Immigration Department (known as IRCC) stating on its website :

We can’t recommend specific insurance companies or plans, but you can search online for something that meets your needs.’

That’s where Moving2Canada helps. For more than 10 years we have worked with a selection of great IEC health insurance providers that offer competitive policies underwritten by reputable brands. When you come knocking asking for IEC insurance, they know exactly what you’re looking for and will be able to sort you out. Plus, these providers generally offer excellent customer service, a key attribute if you need to make a claim at a later date.

Select the region you’ll be in when you’re buying your travel insurance for Canada, or your health insurance.

Europe

Australia

New Zealand

Rest of the world (including Canada)

When to buy IEC health insurance

The Government of Canada recommends that you buy this insurance only after you receive your port of entry (POE) letter, which is a key document you need in order to travel to Canada and obtain your work permit.

If your IEC health insurance policy is valid for less than the maximum potential validity of your work permit, you will be issued a work permit that expires at the same time as your insurance. If this happens, you will not be able to apply to change the conditions of your work permit at a later date.

Why you need IEC health insurance

Wait a moment, doesn’t Canada have a world-renowned, publicly-funded healthcare system? Yes, indeed it does. But, like many other temporary residents in Canada, IEC participants don’t get access to publicly-funded healthcare. Access to the public healthcare system is reserved for Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and some temporary residents (not including IEC participants).

Compare prices for IEC health insurance options with a free quote comparison from BestQuote.

Can you get provincial coverage while on IEC?

Now, there is anecdotal evidence that some IEC participants have in fact obtained publicly-funded healthcare after arriving in Canada. Each Canadian province and territory has its own healthcare system and rules for eligibility. Generally, temporary workers with a work permit of more than six months can be eligible for provincial health insurance. This, however, does not negate the need for IEC participants to have private IEC health insurance before arriving in Canada.

Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

If you decide to settle in Ontario, you may be eligible for OHIP if you respect the following criteria:

  • Hold a valid work permit, 
  • Work in a full-time job for an Ontario-based employer for at least 6 months, 
  • Have your primary place of residence located in Ontario, 
  • Be physically present in Ontario for a minimum of 153 days within any 12-month period. 
  • Be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 of the first 183 days immediately after establishing residency within the province. 

Medical Service Plan (MSP) in British Columbia

While in BC, you may be eligible for the Medical Services Plan (MSP). To qualify, you must:

  • Reside in BC for at least 6 consecutive months,
  • Hold a valid work permit for at least 6 consecutive months,
  • Be employed for a minimum of 6 months with a minimum of 18 hours per week.

Alberta Health Car Insurance Plan (AHCIP)

Alberta will also allow you to apply for local health coverage if you :

  • Reside in the province and intend to stay for at least 12 months,
  • Hold a work permit running for at least 6 months.

Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec (RAMQ)

The same goes for Quebec. To be eligible for RAMQ you will need to prove that you:

  • Reside in the province and intend to stay for at least 12 months,
  • Hold a work permit running for at least 6 months.

 

IMPORTANT REMINDER:

  • Your eligibility can vary based on individual circumstances,
  • Even if you do get access to publicly-funded care, you still NEED to retain private IEC health insurance coverage through the validity period of your IEC work permit. The Government is clear on this, stating on its website
    Having a valid provincial health card is not enough. Repatriation is not covered by provincial health insurance.’In any event, your family probably won’t thank you when they have to remortgage the house to drag your body halfway around the world (not that you’d be able to hear their complaints anyway).

 

About the author

Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, making him a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experience with immigration made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.

FAQ

How does IEC health insurance differ from travel insurance?

Is repatriation coverage mandatory in IEC health insurance?

Can I purchase IEC health insurance after arriving in Canada?

How long should my IEC health insurance policy be valid for?

Do IEC participants have access to Canada's public healthcare system?

Can IEC health insurance be extended if I decide to stay longer in Canada?