In Canada, each province offers a healthcare plan that is publically funded, meaning the cost is shared by the taxpayers. Here, our Ottawa and Orleans immigration IRCC panel physicians share some information about healthcare coverage in each province and territory and requirements such as permanent residency and supporting documents.
Is Healthcare Free in Canada For Immigrants?
The short answer is yes. If you are a Canadian citizen and permanent resident or here on work or study permit then you may apply for public health insurance from whichever province or territory you reside in. However, there may be some restrictions depending on your situation and which province you live in.
While some provinces of Canada offer healthcare coverage right away, others may require a waiting period of up to three months before your coverage begins.
During this time private insurance will be very important. This is simple though as you should have purchased travel insurance before entering Canada. Just ensure that this coverage will handle your healthcare expenses for the full duration while you wait for your provincial plan to begin.
You may want to also consider purchasing private health insurance to 'top up' your provincial coverage. This will help to cover healthcare needs not covered under the universal plan such as dental, prescriptions, and eye care.
Will you have healthcare coverage outside of your home province?
One of the benefits of provincial healthcare coverage is that you will also have your basic healthcare needs covered while in any other province in Canada.
This means that even if you reside in Ontario, you will be able to seek urgent care or other covered services in any other province that you may be visiting. You should keep in mind that this will have some restrictions on what is covered and so there may be certain costs that you have to pay out of pocket that you may not need to in your home province.
Healthcare Coverage in Each Province of Canada
In Canada, each province and territory has its own healthcare insurance program and different regulations and requirements. Here's a little information about seeking healthcare coverage and services across Canada:
Healthcare coverage in Alberta is known as the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). This coverage can begin immediately for newcomers if all standard requirements are met.
Before coverage can begin you will need to submit an application containing all supporting documents. This includes the AHCIP registration forms and providing proof of residency in Alberta, government-issued ID, and proof that you are in Canada legally. You can submit a utility bill or pay stub, a passport or driver’s license, and a permanent resident card or port of entry immigration document as supporting information.
Healthcare coverage through AHCIP can include:
- Medically-required physician services
- Psychiatrist visits
- Medically required diagnostic services
- Certain dental surgeries
If you are under the age of 19 or over the age of 65 then you may also be eligible for extended coverage.
Healthcare coverage for residents of British Columbia is known as the Medical Services Plan (MSP).
It's important to complete your application for coverage as soon as possible as this plan may require up to a three-month wait before coverage can begin.
Some of the services that the MSP covers include:
- Services provided in British Columbia by physicians and midwives
- Dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital
- Necessary eye exams
- Some orthodontic services
You can apply for healthcare coverage in Manitoba at the time you become a permanent resident although you will need to wait three months for your coverage to begin.
When you begin your application for healthcare coverage, you will need to provide a photocopy of your passport, along with all immigration documents provided to you, and a completed Manitoba Health Registration Form.
Healthcare in Manitoba provides coverage for
- Physicians’ services
- X-ray and laboratory services when ordered by a physician
The healthcare coverage program in New Brunswick is New Brunswick Medicare.
When you become a permanent resident, you will need to apply for Medicare directly.
You will need to submit the completed Medicare application form as well as copies of all Canadian immigration identification records, including an entry stamp on your passport. Once you have been deemed eligible you will be sent a letter outlining the important information about your new healthcare coverage including the start date.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Healthcare coverage in Newfoundland and Labrador is offered by the Medical Care Plan (MCP).
Once you've achieved permanent residency and are living in Newfoundland or Labrador, you can apply for healthcare coverage. You will need to complete and submit the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Care Coverage application form, along with supporting documents and forms such as your permanent residency card.
In some cases, this coverage can also apply to foreign workers and international students.
The NWT Health Care Plan provides healthcare coverage for residents in the Northwest Territories (NWT).
You can apply once you move to the NWT and obtain permanent residency in Canada. You will need to submit a completed healthcare application and any other requested documents.
Nova Scotia residents receive healthcare coverage through the Medical Services Insurance Program or MSI.
MSI can provide healthcare coverage for those residing in Nova Scotia starting the day that you become a permanent resident of Canada or upon a study or work permit being granted.
To obtain your new health card, you will need to contact the MSI Registration and Enquiry Department.
The Nunavut Health Care Plan is responsible for providing healthcare coverage to the residents of Nunavut.
You must be a permanent resident of both Canada and Nunavut to apply.
In Ontario, universal healthcare coverage is provided under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan or OHIP. You may need to wait up to three months after becoming a permanent resident for your coverage to begin. OHIP pays for doctor visits, hospital stays, abortions, podiatry, ambulance services, eligible dental surgery, and other services. You may also have costs associated with healthcare-related travel covered if you live in Northern Ontario.
You can visit a Service Ontario office to apply where you will be asked to provide the following:
- Completed Registration for Ontario Health Coverage (0265-82) form
- Three separate, original identification documents
- Proof of your Canadian citizenship or OHIP-eligible immigration status (e.g. Canadian birth certificate, Permanent Resident Card)
- Proof that you live in Ontario (e.g. Ontario driver’s licence, income tax assessment)
- Document that supports your identity (e.g. a credit card, or a passport from any country)
Prince Edward Island
In Prince Edward Island, all residents are offered basic healthcare coverage when holding a valid PEI health card. Upon being granted healthcare coverage, you will have a three-month waiting period before your costs will be covered.
To apply for coverage, you will need to complete the online application form and attach a copy of your Confirmation of Permanent Residence document, or both sides of your Permanent Residence card.
PEI also allows international students and foreign workers to apply for coverage while residing in the province.
The Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (Health Insurance Board of Quebec), also known as the RAMQ, manages the provincial healthcare coverage for residents of Quebec.
All new residents will have a waiting period of three months after the date of registration before coverage begins. You should apply for coverage as soon as possible after you relocate to Quebec to avoid a longer wait for coverage.
When you apply, you will need to call the Régie or visit a Régie office to obtain an application form. You can also complete the application in person as long as you have the necessary supporting documents at the time of your visit.
The documents that may be required include originals of your permanent resident card (or other document issued by immigration authorities which proves permanent residency), and your Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ).
You can provide a copy of your residential lease, deed of purchase for a residential property, or attestation from an employer as proof of residency in Quebec.
If you are a foreign worker in Quebec and can provide an immigration document showing your employer’s name and stating you may work in Quebec for at least six months, then you are also eligible to apply for healthcare coverage.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is the provider of basic healthcare coverage for all residents in Saskatchewan.
As a new permanent resident or temporary worker, you may need to wait up to three months for coverage.
For your application, you will need to provide copies of documents proving you are legally residing in Canada and your residency in Saskatchewan and identity must also be provided. You will be able to apply for your new health card online.
Saskatchewan Health Card coverage manages the cost of care for services such as:
- All medically necessary services, including both inpatient and outpatient services
- Some supplemental services, including dental services and prescription drugs
Yukon Health Care Insurance is the provincial provider of healthcare coverage for those residing in the Yukon.
You will need to complete an online application and provide all necessary supporting documents and forms.
Seeking Healthcare as a Newcomer to Canada
We know that seeking medical care can be difficult as an immigrant in Canada as medical services and coverage vary between provinces. If you need medical care, your first step should be to contact the medical health services for your home province.
Many provinces also offer a telehealth or telephone health service that is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by knowledgeable, experienced nurses and doesn't have any additional cost to use. If you are still unsure, you can call your province's specified healthcare phone line.
Settling into Your New Home Country
If you are considering moving to Canada or in the middle of your permanent residency application, we know you are likely being given a ton of information. Among this info will likely be all of your requirements for your permanent residency application which can include an immigration medical exam which our IRCC panel physicians in Ottawa would be happy to assist you with.