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As an international student in one of the many Canadian universities, you may at some point find yourself in need of help beyond your academic life. If you have a health or legal issue, read on to learn more about help for international students in Canada.

The emergency services number in Canada is 9-1-1. If you need emergency police, ambulance, or fire response services, this is the number to call.

Help for international students: explore your university or college’s resources

Most Canadian universities and colleges are familiar with welcoming international students, and offer a range of resources to support them. These resources can vary widely, so make sure to take a look at what’s on offer when you’re selecting which university or college you wish to attend– these services may be as important to your wellbeing and success as your study program. Canadian universities and colleges may offer services such as:

  • Health centres
  • Mental health support,
  • Study skills support and English/French as a Second Language (ESL/FRSL) resources
  • Emergency loans
  • Legal aid
  • Immigration advice
  • Travel assistance
  • Much more . . .

Canadian universities and colleges often provide international students on the range of options they offer via their. It’s also important to check out the student union or student association services. These are often run by students, for students. The student union can be a fast and efficient way to get your problem solved, as it can be easier to talk to someone there than trying to go through the administration of the university or college. Student unions offer services to all students and are usually funded by your fees, so there’s no reason not to take advantage.

Help for international students: Health

Canadian universities or colleges will likely have their own health services centre for situations such as prescriptions, routine check-ups, or non-emergency health issues. You should also be able to access local health services such as clinics and hospitals. Healthcare in Canada is managed by the provinces, and international students’ access to health services can vary accordingly. As an international student in one of the many Canadian universities or colleges, it is usually required that you obtain health insurance, as you (and any accompanying family members) may not be covered under the provincial plan – again, this varies by province.

Canadian universities or colleges may charge their international students for coverage unless you can show you already have health insurance. Or, your Canadian university or college may have an agreement with a third-party provider to offer insurance for international students.

Here is a list of health resources by province, tailored to international students where possible. However, your university or college website should have comprehensive information that is particularly relevant to students, so check there as well.

Help for international students: Mental health

Health services on university and college campuses usually also comprise mental health resources, which may include consultations and referrals.

It is becoming increasingly acknowledged in Canada that mental health is an important aspect of overall wellbeing, and for students in particular this is taken seriously. Attending university or college can be stressful, as you manage your studies at the same time as being away from home, potentially for the first time. It is as important to prioritize your mental health as your physical health. Consider your campus health centre as your first stop for help with any anxiety or stress you may feel is negatively affecting your well-being, as they will be able offer help specific to your situation. You have a right to anonymity when seeking assistance or treatment.

Here is a list of resources if you’re concerned about your own well-being or that of a friend or family member, or if you just want someone to talk to.

If you are in need of immediate assistance, go to your nearest hospital or call 9-1-1. Canadian hospitals and emergency response teams take mental health issues as seriously as physical health.

The Canadian Mental Health Association provides detailed information and links to further resources on a number of issues including anxiety, disordered eating, anger management, and more.

Transitions is a resource from, developed by mental health professionals and charities and specifically aimed at first-year university and college students. It’s a hefty ebook, but it’s packed with useful tips on managing studies, work-life balance, mental health, and more during a time of intense transition. If you’re worried about any aspect of your future in higher education, chances are you’ll find some answers in this key resource, which offers help for international students in Canada. And if you feel comfortable and confident in your upcoming life change, you might still find some helpful tips to help you keep making the most of your new opportunities.

The Jed Foundation provides targeted resources and support to teens and young adults in higher education, including a hotline if you need someone to talk to.

Crisis Services Canada provides a 24/7 hotline for anyone thinking about or affected by suicide.

The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) provides information, resources, and a helpline for people with or worried about disordered eating and weight preoccupation.

Help for international students: Legal aid clinics

You may never find yourself in a situation in which you need legal advice, but it’s good to know who to call if you do. From issues such as landlord negotiations to immigration advice, these clinics may be able to help international students in Canada who can’t afford a lawyer or a consultation.

Even if you don’t need a lawyer, but have a question about the law in Canada, help may be available. Legal aid is offered by provincial governments, as well as by student-run legal clinics associated with university law programs. If your university or college has a law or law-related department or program, make them your first stop for advice. They may have the answer to your question, and if they don’t they’ll be able to refer you to someone who can.

Here’s a list of some registered associations providing help for international students by province. Unless otherwise indicated, where a university clinic is listed below, it is run by students offering services to the wider public, including students from other universities.

If you are an international student in Canada and you have an issue not covered below, feel free to contact us. We’ll see if we can connect you with the resources you need.

About the author

Hugo O'Doherty profile picture

Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
Read more about Hugo O'Doherty
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