This page provides information to Canadians about immigrant
If you have just moved to Canada, or are thinking about it, you most
likely have questions about the national health care system. You might
be wondering, “What is a health card?”, “What does it
cover?”, and “How can I obtain immigrant health insurance?”
has a national healthcare system that provides residents with
a health card that offers coverage for various medical services and procedures.
The Federal government dictates the general policy, but each province’s
specific terms of coverage slightly differ. For eligibility and coverage
information, you should inquire with the health office of the province
you wish to reside in, before moving to Canada.
Under the Canada Health Act, persons immigrating to Canada, and wanting
to obtain immigrant health insurance coverage, can face waiting periods
for up to 90 days, depending on the province of choice.
Applying for a Health Card
Applying for a health card is one of the important things you
should do when you set up residence in Canada. Each family member must
apply individually; even babies need their own health card. An application
form is available at the Ministry of Health office, or at any hospital
When applying for a health care card, the following documents need to
- Birth certificate
- Permanent residence form.
Note that a health card is only valid in the province of residence -
if you move to another province, your health card is no longer valid.
If you change your address, you must advise the Ministry of Health.
Provincial Health Coverage
If you are moving to Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec or New
Brunswick, you will have to wait three months before you get full health
coverage. Immigrants to these four provinces should consider obtaining
private insurance coverage until they become eligible for the provincial
insurance plan. In the other provinces, you can receive your health card
immediately upon application.
Before settling in Canada, it is best to shop around in order to acquire
substantial information on the various immigrant health insurance plans
and policies. And if you are planning to buy additional insurance coverage,
it is important to search for the type of coverage that best suits you
and your family.
Private Immigrant Health Insurance
In some cases, it is wise to purchase private health insurance
as a supplement to the Provincial Health Insurance Plan as some medical
costs such as special treatments and procedures, ambulance costs, dental
and vision care are not always covered by the province’s program.
Your physician can answer questions concerning specific medical coverage.
Below is a list of services typically covered by the Provincial Health
- Hospital care
- Immunization shots
- Lab tests
- Certain types of surgery
- Medical treatments
If you have been prescribed a particular drug, you should bring
a surplus with you when you move to Canada as you might not be able to
find a doctor immediately upon your arrival into your new neighborhood.
An Alternative – Interim Federal Health Program
If you are unable to pay for medical services, and you do not
have a private health insurance plan, and you are not yet eligible for
the Provincial Health Insurance, you can apply to the Interim Federal
Health Program. This program provides refugees with temporary medical