Health Insurance for International Students in Canada: Things You Need to know

Health Insurance for International Students in Canada Things You Need to know

Health Insurance for International Students in Canada. While Canada is well known for its free Canadian health care, most of these services are only available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

For this reason, all international students attending school in Canada must take out medical insurance for the duration of their study program.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about health care coverage as an international student in Canada.


  1. Canadian Health Care

2. Why is it important for international students to get medical insurance?

3. Provincial health coverage for international students


4. Other health care options for international students

5. Getting add-on insurance

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An overview of health coverage in Canada

Canada’s health care system varies from province to province. Foreign nationals planning to study in the country should familiarize themselves with Canadian health care offered by their province of study. Some provinces cover international students with provincial health insurance plans, but most provinces require students to enroll in private health insurance plans.

Each province or territory issues health insurance cards to its residents. And depending on where you live, there may be a delay before you can apply for a health insurance card. For example, in British Columbia, there is a waiting period of up to three months before being eligible for a medical insurance plan (MSP). However, if you live in Alberta, there is no waiting time before applying for a health insurance card.


Each province or territory covers the cost of medically necessary health services for residents enrolled in its health insurance plan. This includes visits to a doctor or family doctor, medical tests (such as blood tests or X-rays) and hospital stays in a standard ward.

Additional medical services available under universal health care will vary from province to province. For example, Manitoba offers seven chiropractic visits per year and Nova Scotia covers basic dental care for children under 14 years old.

The importance of health insurance for international students 

Do international students need health insurance? Yes, it is important for two main reasons –

1. To avoid the financial burden of unforeseen medical expenses.


2. To ensure you have access to immediate and appropriate medical care.

All international students studying in Canada must have health insurance. Several Canadian provinces will offer health insurance to international students as part of their provincial plan, but not all do. Although all Canadian provinces and territories offer free emergency health services to people without a health card, these services are limited.

Those in Canada without permanent residence or citizen status should expect to pay out of pocket for medical services unless they have private health insurance. These services can be very expensive. Even if you only pay $120 to see a doctor in an outpatient clinic, you could be charged $1,000 for an emergency room visit and $3,700 for acute care in a standard room. Depending on where you go for treatment, you may need to pay the fee upfront.


It’s easy to see how a medical emergency could cost you thousands of dollars. No one plans to get sick. But if the worst happens, you must be prepared.

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Health Care Services for International Students by Province

Some provinces provide coverage to international students under their provincial health insurance plan, while other provinces and territories require you to register for private health insurance.


Here is a breakdown of each province and it’s study requirements to qualify for universal health care:

Alberta YES .Minimum of a 12-month study permit.
.Apply within 90 days of arriving in Alberta.
.Students with a 3 to 12-month study permit may be eligible if they can prove they intend to live in Alberta for 12 months.
British Columbia (B.C.) YES .Minimum six-month study permit.
.to a three-month wait period.
.coverage only begins on the first day of the third month following your arrival in Canada.
Manitoba NO .Minimum 12-month study permit.
.proof of full-time registration at a college or university required.
New Brunswick YES .Minimum 12-month study permit.
.Proof of full-time registration at a college or university required
Newfoundland and Labrador YES .Minimum 12-month study period.
.Proof of registration at a college or university is required.
Northwest Territories YES .Minimum 12-month study period.
.Proof of registration at a college or university is required.
Nova Scotia YES .Minimum 12-month study period.
.one year wait period.
.applies on the first day of the thirteenth month following your arrival as a student.
.must not be out of the province for more than 31 consecutive days.
.proof of study permit required.
Ontario NO
Prince Edward Island (PEI) YES .Copy of valid study permit that also indicates you can work off-campus.
.Proof of full-time registration at college or university.
Quebec Possibly .Students from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden may be eligible for health coverage as Quebec has a reciprocal agreement with these countries.
Saskatchewan YES .Proof of valid study permit and full-time enrollment at a university or college is required.
Yukon NO

Medical Insurance Out of Province

Provincial health care coverage, whether provided through a free government program or purchased through a private plan, can only cover healthcare-related expenses that occur within that specific province.

International students who wish to travel outside their province of study, either to another province within Canada or to a country outside of Canada, should check with their health insurance provider to determine if they will be covered during their travels.


If an international student’s health insurance does not extend to travel periods, they may purchase private health insurance to cover medical expenses incurred while traveling.

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Other health care options for international students

If you plan to study in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, the Yukon, or are in your first year of study in Nova Scotia, you must obtain health insurance coverage.


The following options are open:

Health insurance for students offered by public universities

The university or college you attend may have a health coverage plan. Depending on the postsecondary institution, these plans may be required or optional. The coverage provided will depend on the insurance company they use but should include doctor visits, hospitalization, diagnostic tests, ambulance, and emergency medical care. It can also include dental, eye, and vision care.

Contact your college or university or visit their website to see if they have a health insurance plan available for international students.


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If you are studying in Manitoba

International students must have primary health coverage under the Manitoba International Student Health Plan (MISHP). This plan will cover eligible medical services, such as doctor visits and x-rays, as well as hospital stays.

If you are studying in Ontario

International students studying are required to have mandatory health coverage under the University Health Insurance Program (UHIP). UHIP will help cover the cost of medical services and hospital stays while you are in Canada.


Private health insurance

If you are not eligible for provincial health coverage and your post-secondary institution does not offer a health insurance plan, you can apply for private health insurance. A basic health insurance plan will cover services such as ambulance, prescription drugs, hospital stays, and, depending on the program, a percentage of dental costs.

Depending on the insurance provider and package you choose, you may have to pay a small portion of your health expenses (deductible) out of pocket. Compare the costs of monthly premiums, deductibles, and coverage when choosing an insurance package. The cost of private health insurance can vary based on pre-existing medical conditions and risk behaviors, such as smoking. Be sure to include the cost of premiums and other emergency expenses in your monthly budget.

Getting add-on insurance

Even if you are covered by the province you are studying in, it’s a good idea to get add-on insurance to cover items not included under universal health care, to protect you before you arrive, or if you take a vacation during the summer break.



Pre-arrival travel coverage

You may want to come to Canada and settle down before starting your studies. As international students must have valid health insurance while in Canada, it is important to purchase insurance before arriving in Canada and at the beginning of your stay, especially if your province has a waiting period for health insurance.

Look for travel insurance that covers you for flight interruptions, trip cancellation, lost luggage, and medical expenses. You should also check if your insurance policy covers medical expenses related to COVID-19.

Finding insurance

The OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) has a tool to help you find health, life, and travel in Canada.


You can also find insurance through your credit card company or financial institution. For example, RBC offers insurance plans designed specifically for international students and visitors to Canada. International students in Canada are generally required to obtain health insurance during their stay.

Before arriving in Canada, it’s important to research to determine if the province you’ll be staying in offers provincial health coverage for international students, or if there are health insurance plans available through your university. In provinces like Ontario, where provincial health coverage does not extend to international students, you may need to apply for private health insurance.

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