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Healthcare as a Foreign National in Canada – Eligibility, and Waiting Period for a Canada Health Card

Austin Campbell



Foreign National in Canada

A foreign national residing in Canada, whether temporarily or permanently, understanding your eligibility for healthcare coverage is crucial. Accessing public healthcare services often requires obtaining a health card specific to your province or territory of residence.

This comprehensive guide will explore the eligibility criteria for acquiring a Canada health card in four key newcomer provinces: Ontario, British Columbia (B.C.), Alberta, and Quebec.

Why You Need a Canada Health Card

Failing to register for public healthcare coverage can result in significant financial burdens, as healthcare services in Canada can be costly for those without coverage. It’s essential to safeguard yourself against unexpected medical expenses by obtaining a health card.

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In Ontario, foreign nationals can obtain a health card if they meet specific eligibility requirements set forth by the Government of Ontario.


Requirements include:

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  • Being a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or possessing a valid work permit, among other qualifications.
  • Applicants must fulfill residency and presence criteria, such as being physically present in Ontario for a minimum number of days within a specified timeframe.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, newcomers must establish residency to qualify for public medical coverage through the Medical Services Plan (MSP) and acquire a health card. The provincial government defines a resident as someone who makes their home in B.C. and is physically present in the province for a certain duration annually.

While permanent residents are subject to a waiting period upon establishing residency, temporary residents, including certain holders of study and work permits, may be deemed eligible for MSP coverage under specific circumstances.


In Alberta, both permanent and temporary residents can access public healthcare coverage by meeting defined eligibility criteria. Permanent residents must demonstrate their intent to make Alberta their permanent home and fulfill residency requirements.

Temporary residents, such as international students and workers, are also eligible for coverage, subject to certain conditions, including residency duration and work permit validity.

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Quebec’s healthcare eligibility criteria vary based on residency status and duration of stay. Permanent residents, refugees, and protected persons are eligible for coverage if they meet specific residence and presence requirements. Temporary residents, including individuals with work or study permits, must adhere to prescribed rules governing their stay in Quebec to qualify for healthcare coverage.

ProvinceEligibility CriteriaWaiting Period
OntarioCanadian citizen, permanent resident, valid work permit, convention refugee, Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), clergy memberNo waiting period
British Columbia (B.C.)Canadian citizen or permanent resident, physically present in B.C., temporary resident under specific circumstancesWaiting period upon residency
AlbertaLegally entitled to be in Canada, intent to make Alberta primary home, physical presence in Alberta, temporary residents under specific conditionsWaiting period for newcomers
QuebecPermanent residents, refugees, protected persons, temporary residents under specific conditionsWaiting period for newcomers, exceptions apply

Navigating healthcare as a foreign national in Canada requires understanding the eligibility criteria for obtaining a Canada health card in your province or territory of residence. Whether you reside in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, or Quebec, familiarizing yourself with the residency, presence, and other requirements is essential for accessing public healthcare services. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure timely and comprehensive healthcare coverage during your stay in Canada.

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This table provides a concise overview of the eligibility criteria and any waiting periods applicable

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