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Immigration and Citizenship

New Canadian Immigrants Know Your Health Coverage Before Arrival

New Canadian Immigrants Know Your Health Coverage Before Arrival

Experts are warning that many new Canadian immigrants do not consider what health coverage they may need until they are already in Canada.  Whether you are coming to Canada as a permanent resident, a work permit holder or a study permit holder, the experts are warning that you should never assume you will qualify for public health care coverage when you arrive in Canada.

Do your research to avoid any unexpected consequences.

Health Insurance for New Canadian Immigrants

Even though the Canadian health care system (Medicare is the name of Canada’s publicly funded health care system) is considered one of the best in the world, it still has some coverage limitations such as a waiting period for new Canadian immigrants. It means that new Canadian immigrants may not be covered for health emergencies that happen in the gap between landing and establishing coverage, particularly in provinces where a waiting period exists.

All provinces and territories will provide free emergency medical services, even if you don’t have a government health card. However, there may be restrictions depending on your immigration status.

While Canada has an established public health care system, certain provinces impose a waiting period for new permanent residents, while work permit and study permit holders are also treated differently.

Immediate Health Coverage for New Permanent Residents

Currently there are seven provinces that offer immediate Medicare coverage for newly landed permanent residents. In these provinces, after registering for a health card with the qualifying documentation, the effective date of coverage is made retroactive to the date the new resident arrived to establish residence in the province or territory.

In three provinces and all territories a Medicare waiting period is imposed on newly arrived residents. In these jurisdictions even, new residents who are Canadian citizens face the waiting period.

Immediate coverage Waiting period
Saskatchewan Ontario
Manitoba British Columbia
Alberta Quebec
New Brunswick Yukon
Nova Scotia Northwest Territories
Newfoundland & Labrador Nunavut
Prince Edward Island

Experts advise that new permanent residents who face a Medicare coverage waiting period should purchase interim (private) medical insurance for the applicable waiting period.

Temporary Workers and International Students

In some provinces, immigrants are required to hold work permits valid for a certain period of time, usually six or 12 months, to be eligible for health coverage.  There are even greater risks for student visa holders.  Certain provinces or territories:

  • Never offer Medicare to international students.
  • Offer Medicare only if the student is registered for a scholastic program longer than 12 months.
  • Only offer coverage after the student has resided with study permit for 12 continuous months in the province or territory.
  • Let international students on Medicare immediately or after that jurisdiction’s standard waiting period, if they possess a study permit valid for six months or longer. 

Effective September 1, 2018, Manitoba Health implemented new eligibility criteria which made international students ineligible for coverage, regardless of their duration of permit or study permit.

What is Covered Under Canadian Public Health Systems

Medicare covers basic or primary health services, such as medically necessary hospital care, physician services, and certain medically necessary diagnostic tests. The following are examples of health services/costs typically not covered by Medicare:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Paramedical practitioners, (such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, etc.)
  • Ambulance service
  • Medical equipment (wheel chair, crutches, braces, etc.)
  • Dental services
  • Optometrist, prescription glasses, contact lenses
  • Medical care received outside Canada

You may need private insurance to pay for things that government plans don’t fully cover.  The most common types of plans are extended health plans. These cover costs for:

  • prescription medications
  • dental care
  • physiotherapy
  • ambulance services
  • prescription eyeglasses

If you work, you may get extra coverage from the company or organization you work for.

Provincial and territorial ministries of health:

Useful Resources

Healthcare Insurance for New Comers in Canada
New Canadian Immigrants Healthcare Checklist
Health Care in Canada

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