StudyTrekkers Guide: Navigating Canada's Health System for International Students

Canada is celebrated globally for its premium education, diverse cultural landscape, and an impressive healthcare system. If you're an international student aiming to study in Canada, grasping the healthcare dynamics is essential. This in-depth guide dissects Canada's health system province by province, offering valuable insights tailored for international students.

Overview of Canada's Health System

Known as "Medicare", Canada's healthcare operates on a publicly funded and primarily privately administered system. This model ensures every Canadian resident access to crucial medical services from doctors and essential hospital facilities without any direct charges. Remember, while each province and territory has its health insurance plan, the specifics can vary. International students might be required to join a provincial health insurance program or acquire private insurance, all depending on the region.

Health Coverage by Province and Territory

British Columbia (BC)

The Medical Services Plan (MSP) serves as BC's public health insurance. Since 2020, MSP coverage has been extended to international students with a valid study permit. However, there's a 2-3 month waiting period before this coverage becomes active. Hence, students are often advised to consider temporary private insurance during this waiting phase.

BC MSP for International Students


The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) is available for international students with a study permit that's valid for 12 months or longer. AHCIP essentially covers basic health amenities, but for services like dental or vision, students might want to think about supplemental insurance.

AHCIP for International Students


While the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) does cover some international students, many find themselves ineligible. Those who don't qualify often lean towards the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP), offered by most Ontario-based universities.

OHIP Eligibility UHIP


For most international students, the Quebec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ) isn't an option, unless a specific agreement exists between their home country and Quebec. Typically, students in such situations resort to procuring private health insurance through their respective universities.

RAMQ for Students


The Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL) provides health insurance to eligible international students. Those with valid study permits for more than six months are generally eligible. Yet, it's imperative to apply promptly upon arrival to ensure uninterrupted coverage.

MHSAL for International Students

New Brunswick

New Brunswick doesn't automatically cover international students under its Medicare program. Students are, therefore, recommended to get private insurance. Some educational institutions might offer health plans tailored for international students.

New Brunswick Medicare

Newfoundland and Labrador

International students with a study permit valid for 12 months or longer are eligible for the Medical Care Plan (MCP) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Enrolling upon arrival is essential as the processing time can be up to three months.

MCP for International Students

Nova Scotia

International students in Nova Scotia can avail the Medical Services Insurance (MSI) provided they're enrolled in a study program lasting a minimum of 12 months. Applying promptly is recommended, and additional coverage for dental or vision may be necessary through private plans.

MSI for International Students

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

PEI's Health PEI program is accessible for students with a study permit of at least 12 months. Ensure that you register upon arrival, and always consider supplemental insurance for services not covered by Health PEI.

Health PEI for International Students


International students in Saskatchewan are covered under the Saskatchewan Health Card. Application upon arrival is vital, and there's usually a three-month waiting period before the coverage commences. During this period, a private insurance coverage might be beneficial.

Saskatchewan Health for International Students

Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut

For international students in the territories, healthcare coverage varies. Generally, they aren't automatically covered under public health insurance and may require private coverage. Students are strongly advised to directly check with the respective territory's health department and their educational institution for specific information and guidance.

Private Health Insurance for International Students

For those international students who either aren't eligible for the provincial health coverage or find that the provincial health scheme doesn't cater to all their medical needs, private health insurance emerges as the solution. Some popular choices in this realm include Guard.Me and Student Guard.

Guard.Me Insurance

Student Guard Insurance

Navigating Clinics and Hospitals

Canada's healthcare system comprises both walk-in clinics and hospitals. For non-emergencies, walk-in clinics are ideal. On the other hand, for more severe health concerns, hospitals are better equipped. Whichever option you choose, always remember to carry your health card or any proof of insurance with you.

Prescription Medications

It's essential to note that Medicare doesn't cover prescription drugs. However, many universities provide health plans that bear a portion of the medication costs. If this isn't the case with your institution, considering private insurance or out-of-pocket payments is advisable.

Dental and Vision Care

Most provincial plans do not include dental and vision care. However, there's a silver lining: many student associations offer health plans inclusive of dental and vision care. It's worth checking with your university to explore these options.

Mental Health Resources

Canada places considerable emphasis on the importance of mental health. Most universities have dedicated counseling services, and there are multiple helplines available for those in need. One such valuable resource is Good2Talk, a helpline designed for post-secondary students.


Ensuring a clear understanding of your healthcare options as an international student in Canada can play a pivotal role in safeguarding your well-being and academic experience. With this comprehensive guide, we aim to facilitate your seamless adaptation to Canadian healthcare norms. For additional assistance, do not hesitate to connect with your respective institution's international student office or a trusted advisor who is familiar with the healthcare intricacies of your chosen province or territory.