If you’re an international students with hopes of studying in Canada, ensuring you have the right insurance in place before you go is absolutely essential. In Canada, the rules on healthcare are determined by each individual province, and they significantly vary from each other. Some provinces offer coverage to international students while some others do not, so it’s important to establish the case for your chosen institution before you leave to study.

Know Your Province

Although Canada has a public healthcare system that offers government health services to citizens and permanent residents, the decision as to whether to extend this to temporary residents (including international students) will lie within each province. Regions that currently offer coverage to international students include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan.

The medical services that are offered and the various eligibility requirements can be substantially different from one province to another, so you need to establish whether you will be eligible for healthcare and, if so, what kind of coverage. This will often depend on the type of permit or visa that you hold- so, for example in Alberta, an international student is entitled to healthcare if they have a study permit for a minimum of twelve months, whereas in Manitoba, a study permit just six months in length is required.

Timing is Crucial

Health insurance coverage for international students may also begin at different times- in some provinces, the coverage may start immediately upon arrival, but in others this could be as much as 90 days after touching down. The most basic healthcare coverage will include medically necessary hospital and physician services but additional benefits may be available. These benefits may provide whole or partial coverage and may also be aimed at specific demographics, such as the very young or the very old.

No Man’s Land

There are some provinces in Canada that don’t offer any healthcare coverage to international students: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Yukon. But even in these regions, there could be an opportunity for international students to apply for some sort of healthcare coverage. For example, the province of Quebec has bilateral social services agreements in place with nine European countries, which means that international students originating from these countries may be able to apply for healthcare services in the province. Other provinces have specific public healthcare programs that may be applicable to international students- for example, the University Health Insurance Plan in Ontario.

Think Ahead!

If you’re applying to study in a province that doesn’t offer coverage, you must take out health insurance before you leave for Canada. Choose a policy that will provide just the kind of coverage you’ll need- remember, if you’re planning to ski or take on any other adventurous activity, you may need a more extensive policy to deal with any accidents or injuries that occur as a result. Most Canadian universities require international students to have a policy in place before they begin their studies. Whether it be a private health insurance policy or the school/college’s own health insurance plan that the students can opt into, it’s absolutely necessary for you to have some sort of coverage. For those international students who are covered under their own- or their parents’- health insurance policies, you may be able to continue with this plan, rather than having to take out any additional coverage.

So, before you start packing for your time abroad or flicking through your courses, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got all the basics covered, with health insurance as your number one priority. Be sure to thoroughly research the province you’ll be studying in, and if necessary, contact the school you’re going to and ask for help finding the best, cheapest way to obtain the right level of healthcare. One final thing you have to remember: once your policy is in place, be sure to incorporate healthcare payments into your budget, because unfortunately, it doesn’t come free…

Happy travels young learner!

Image via Shutterstock.

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