Health and travel insurance provides international students and their families with peace of mind. Before purchasing any policy, it’s important to understand what it includes. This is not always clear, which is why this blog will explore the options available to students across each Canadian province and territory. Before we dive in, let’s explore the differences between travel and health insurance.
Travel Insurance vs Health Insurance
As an international student in Canada, purchasing health insurance is mandatory. On the other hand, travel insurance is optional, but can help if your luggage is lost or your flight is delayed. Check with your airline to see what travel insurance options they provide and select one that fits your needs. Some credit cards offer travel insurance, so check your card benefits too!
Health insurance coverage varies across Canada, so it’s important to note the differences, which we’ve outlined below.
Health Insurance Options by Province and Territory
If you have a 12-month study permit for an academic institution in Alberta and plan to live there for 12 months or more, you’re eligible and encouraged to apply for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP).
Students with a study permit that is valid for more than three months but under 12 months may be eligible for AHCIP if they write a letter confirming their intention of living in Alberta for at least 12 months. You must include this letter with your AHCIP application.
International students who reside in British Columbia (BC) for at least six months are eligible for BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP). You must apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in BC. MSP takes around three months to process applications, but iMED supplies international students with basic health insurance during this interim period.
Those who aren’t eligible for MSP must purchase private health care coverage after iMED expires. If you aren’t eligible, many academic institutions offer extended health insurance options.
International students studying in Manitoba on a valid study permit must purchase private health insurance through their educational institution or a private insurance company. However, if an international student or their spouse holds a Canadian work permit, such as a co-op or work permit or post-graduation work permit, they may be eligible for provincial health care in Manitoba.
To receive New Brunswick Medicare, international students must have a study permit valid for at least 12 months and proof of full-time registration at a university or college. However, New Brunswick Medicare provides basic medical coverage, so obtaining extended health coverage with a private provider or your academic institution is advised.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Once registered, all international students are automatically admitted to the Foreign Health Insurance Plan. International students enrolled in full-time studies for at least 12 months may access free basic health coverage through Newfoundland’s Medical Care Plan (MCP). If you’re not eligible for the MCP, you must purchase private health coverage. As MCP provides only basic coverage, all international students are urged to consider extended health insurance plans.
International students planning to study in the Northwest Territories for over 12 months may apply for health insurance through Northwest Territories Health Care (NWTHC). NWTHC offers limited free health care, so international students are encouraged to assess private providers’ extended health coverage.
In Nova Scotia (NS), you must purchase health coverage, as international students aren’t immediately eligible for the provincial health care program. Your institution may offer health care plans, and even require that you opt in. Public health insurance becomes available to international students after living in Nova Scotia for 12 months.
After the first year, you might be eligible to apply for a Nova Scotia Health Card, which supplies free basic coverage through Medical Services Insurance (MSI). Once you’re eligible for an NS Health Card, your academic institution may allow you to opt out of their plan.
Nunavut isn’t home to any designated learning institutions (DLIs) and international students cannot study here.
International students aren’t eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). As a result, every academic institution in Ontario provides health insurance for students to purchase. Public universities usually provide health insurance through the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP). Colleges and private institutions in Ontario offer plans from various providers.
Please note that health insurance plans offered to international students through academic institutions aren’t free, and are often added to tuition fees.
Prince Edward Island
If you’re planning to study in Prince Edward Island (PEI) for at least six months, you’re eligible for PEI’s public health insurance. But you can only apply for a provincial health card if you’re an international student legally able to work off-campus. Upon arrival, international students must buy health coverage from a private insurance provider or their academic institution. When you become eligible for a PEI Health Card, some insurance providers will let you opt out of their plan.
Quebec has a reciprocal agreement that allows citizens from 10 countries to access free basic health insurance through Quebec’s Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). If you’re not from one of these 10 countries, don’t worry! Most educational institutions in Quebec automatically enroll international students in their group health insurance plan, and add the cost to tuition.
If you’re not eligible under your institution’s group plan or RAMQ, you may purchase private health insurance.
International students who can prove full-time enrollment at an accredited academic institution in Saskatchewan may be able to register for a Saskatchewan Health Card, which provides free basic health coverage.
Some of Saskatchewan’s academic institutions will enroll international students in private health insurance plans, and pass the cost on through tuition fees. You may opt out of a private health insurance plan if you can prove you’ve obtained health coverage elsewhere, whether through the Saskatchewan Health Card or private insurance.
International students must purchase a group health insurance plan to cover health expenses during their studies.
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