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eligible for a health card

Eligible for a health card in Canada?

As a foreign national, am I eligible for a  health card in Canada?

As a foreign in Canada, whether you arrive here as a temporary resident (ITR) or a permanent resident (PR). It is important to obtain public healthcare coverage in your destination province/territory.

Failing to register for healthcare can leave you  having to pay thousands of dollars for healthcare when needed.

Note:- The Government of Canada is recommends that all residents of every province/territory obtain private health insurance to supplements public healthcare coverage provided by their home province/territory.

To access public healthcare services in your destination province you will need a health card. Broken down by province the following will outline the eligibility criteria for a health card in Canada top four newcomer provinces- Ontario, British Columbia (B.C), Alberta & Quebec.


To be eligible for a health card in Canada (Ontario), foreign nationals must meet at least one of the following “additional requirements” outlined by the Government of Ontario.

Note:- Ontario does not require newcomers to wait to be eligible for provincial (public) healthcare coverage.

Specifically, the applicant must be a resident of Ontario who is also:

  • A Canadian citizens, indigenous persons (registered under the federal Indian Act).
  • Applying for permanent residence in Canada.
  • In possession of a valid work permit, working full0time for an Ontario employer (for at least 6 months)
  • A convention refugee or other protected persons (as defined by the Immigration Refugee Board of Canada).
  • In possession of Temporary Resident Permit (exceptions apply).
  • A clergy member who can legally can legally stay in Canada and will be ministering full time in Ontario for at least 6 months

According to the Ontario government, this applies to foreign nationals who “have submitted a PR application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). To qualify for a Health card, IRCC must have confirmed they have reviewed the application and that you can meet the eligibility requirements to apply. In addition, your PR application must have not yet been denied.

This condition also applies to foreign nationals with a valid work permit under the federal Live-in caregiver Program or the Federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Note:- Certain applicants who obtain Maintained status after their work permit expires can contact Service  Ontario to see if they may still be eligible for a health card.

In addition to the above, applicants must meet all of the following minimum requirements to obtain a health card in Ontario:

  • Be physically in Ontario for 153 days in 12 month period
  • Be physically in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after you begin living in the province
  • Make Ontario your primary residence
eligible for a health card

British Columbia 

To be eligible for public medical coverage (including a health card) through British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP), newcomers must be established as B.C residents.

“Resident” is defined by the provincial government as a someone who meets the following three conditions:

  • A citizen of Canada or lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence 
  • Makes their home in B.C
  • Physically present in B.C at least six months in a calendar year

Eligible Canadian citizens are permanent residents who are outside the province for vacation purpose only are allowed up to seven months of absence in a calendar year

Am I eligible for a health card in B.C as a temporary resident?

Although the above criteria are specific to permanent residents in B.C, the provincial government also note that “some holders of study and/or work permit, (including) work permits on Working Holiday Program (issued under the federal immigration and Refugee Protection Act…. valid for a period of six or more months), may be deemed resident” for the purpose of MSP eligibility.

Conditional eligibility also applies people to temporary residents with maintained status.

It is important to note that the provincial government in British Columbia requires newcomers to wait “the balance of the months” before they can become eligible for provincial (public) health coverage.


To the eligible for health card and corresponding healthcare coverage in Alberta, permanent residents must meet the following criteria.

  • Be legally entitled to be in (and remain in) Canada and make your permanent home in Alberta
  • Be committed to bring physically present Alberta for at least 183 days in any 12-month period.
  • Not claiming residency or obtaining benefits under a claim of residency in another province, territory or country

Qualify as any other person deemed by the regulations to be a resident

In addition to the above, temporary residents in Alberta are also eligible for public healthcare coverage, although this eligibility varies depending on the purpose of an individuals stay in Alberta Eligibility for international students and temporary workers.

Temporary workers

To qualify for public healthcare, temporary workers must establish residency and have the intentions of remaining in Alberta for a minimum of 12 months. In addition, the minimum length of an individuals work permit must be six moths to be eligible for coverage.

International students

According to the provincial government students with a valid 12-month study permit in Alberta will be eligible for public coverage if they will also residing in Alberta for 12 months or more. In the case that a students permit is valid for less than 12 months, they may still be eligible for coverage if they obtain a letter from the school that they are attending this letter must confirm.

  • The student’s enrollment
  • The students intent to reside in Alberta for at least 12 months.

Note:- Alberta requires newcomers to wait three months before they become eligible for public healthcare coverage


In Quebec, newcomers above the age of 18 are required to wait up to three months before they are eligible for public healthcare coverage

This waiting period may not apply to newcomers from a country that has signed a social security agreement with Quebec

Eligibility for healthcare coverage as a foreign national in Quebec is divided into two groups – Person(s) settled in Quebec and Person(s) temporarily staying in Quebec.

Person settled in Quebec

This group includes, among other, foreign nationals who are permanent resident, refugees and protected persons.

People in this group qualify for coverage if they

  • Have their main resident  in Quebec
  • Are present in Quebec for 183 days or more per calendar year

Main residence is defined by the provincial government as “where you usually live on a permanent and stable basis.”

Person temporary staying in Quebec

This group includes, among others, foreign nationals who:

  • Hold an eligible work permit valid for more than 6 months
  • Hold a study or internship permit from a country that has signed social security agreement with Quebec
  • Are a spouse or dependant (age of 18-25) who hold an authorized of stay of more than 6 months accompanying an adult failing into one of the above categories

People in this group qualify for coverage if they comply with the presence in Quebec rule, which dictates that they cannot be absent from Quebec for more than 21 consecutive days.

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