Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (2024)

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (1)Foreigners are drawn to Canada for numerous reasons: the country offers attractive cities with vibrant food scenes, beautiful natural settings, and many respected universities. Canada also has a comprehensive public healthcare system that covers citizens, permanent residents, and refugees. However, most expats and foreigners living in Canada aren’t eligible to join Canada’s health insurance system. Plus, the Canadian public system isn’t perfect: patients often have to wait for treatments such as diagnostic imaging or hip replacements. People with private insurance in Canada often find their waiting periods for care are shorter, especially for non-life-threatening illnesses or procedures.

Fortunately, there are other options for health insurance in Canada, including private international insurance plans that provide access to a broad range of hospitals and doctors. Get to know more about medical insurance in Canada, the difference between the country’s public and private healthcare providers, the recommended hospitals that accept immigrants and expatriates, and the best types of insurance services for travelers, foreigners, and students.

Canadian Health Insurance

Canada is well known for its high-quality national health insurance program. The federal government sets the guidelines and standards for the health insurance system in Canada. However, the actual administration of the national insurance program is the responsibility of each province and territory.

Canada is a massive country, and when it comes to providing quality Canadian healthcare, geography can be challenging! The concerns and priorities for one area might be vastly different from another. Rural versus urban demographics, linguistic traditions, the size of the Indigenous population, proximity of major hospitals, and cultural priorities all influence healthcare spending decisions.

For instance, the needs of the elderly Francophone population in northern Quebec can be very different from those of urban, east coast Halifax residents, with their large contingent of temporary students.

See Also: Health Plans for Canadians Living Abroad

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The Best Health Insurance for Expats in Canada

Expatriates and international citizens in Canada should sign up for an international health insurance plan. These plans permit you to receive care in a wide range of private and public hospitals in Canada, with shorter waiting times. You can also choose a plan that covers dental care, prescription medications, and ambulance services, which public healthcare in Canada usually does not provide. Global medical plans also allow you to be treated outside Canada, which expands the number of specialists you’ll have access to.

Health Insurance Options for Expats in Canada

Canada has a single-payer universal healthcare system called Medicare. Enrollment in Medicare is limited to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, refugees, and some international students and workers. Immigrants and foreigners in Canada cannot enroll in Medicare unless they qualify by falling into one of the above categories. Foreigners will receive emergency care, but non-urgent medical treatment won’t be covered.

To make sure you won’t have to pay for all of your medical expenses, you should sign up for an international health insurance plan. With this coverage, you’ll be treated at Canadian hospitals and clinics without facing exorbitant costs. Another benefit of these insurance plans is the ability to access quality healthcare providers if you travel outside Canada.

The Cost of Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners

The costs of private insurance for foreigners in Canada will vary. Important factors include your age, the benefits included in your plan, and the chosen deductible (the amount you have to pay on your own for medical expenses before your insurance plan’s coverage begins).

Our team is here to help if you’d like to discuss how to get health insurance in Canada. We’d be happy to walk you through the pros and cons of different insurance plans to ensure you’re selecting the right one for your needs and your wallet.

Here are examples of the average costs of healthcare in Canada for non-residents coming from some of the more popular countries of citizenship.

1South Africa$6,080.01
5United States$4,547.79
8United Kingdom$3,095.85

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Can an American Get Health Insurance in Canada?

Though Americans and Canadians are neighbors, Americans don’t have any special access to Canada’s health insurance system. Your U.S. insurance will almost certainly not cover you during your stay in Canada, however long that might be! Unless you’re also a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or studying at a Canadian university in a province or territory that extends health coverage to students, you’ll need to sign up for an international plan that offers insurance for expats in Canada.

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (2)

Xplorer Worldwide Medical Plan

  • Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
  • Define your deductible and prescription benefits
  • For Foreigners in the US or US citizens abroad

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The Best Health Insurance in Canada for Non-Residents

The GeoBlue Xplorer plan offers comprehensive worldwide medical insurance for U.S. citizens in Canada. It also provides access to the Blue Cross / Blue Shield network of doctors and hospitals in the United States. With GeoBlue Xplorer Premier, U.S. citizens have nine months of benefits in the United States. Xplorer plans provide coverage for the life of the policy in countries outside of the United States.

Cigna Global Medical offers private health insurance plans in Canada for non-residents, immigrants, and foreign citizens currently living in the country. The plan has comprehensive coverage, excellent benefits, and quality service.

Also Read: Our guide to comparing expat insurance plans

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (3)

Cigna Global Insurance Plan

  • The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
  • Access to Cigna Global’s trusted network of hospitals and doctors
  • The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service

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Plans for Students at Canadian Colleges and Universities

International students enrolled in colleges and universities in Canada may be able to join Canada’s public health plan, though eligibility varies in each province and territory. Even if you’re in a location that permits students to sign up for Canada’s health insurance system, there will likely be a waiting period prior to enrollment.

Whether you’re waiting to enroll in public insurance in Canada or you need a private plan to cover you during your stay, consider signing up for an international medical plan for students. These student-focused plans are affordable and comprehensive and should meet your school’s insurance requirements.

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (4)

StudentSecure Insurance

  • Provides Medical, Dental, Evacuation and other Benefits
  • Keep your coverage when your studies last multiple years
  • Medical providers are available in over 130 countries worldwide

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Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (5)

IMG Global Medical Plan

  • Four plan options and additional optional coverages
  • Choice of the coverage area to reflect your geographical area of need
  • Freedom to choose your health care provider wherever you are in the world

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Travel Insurance for Short-Term Visitors to Canada

The country’s national health plan doesn’t cover most visitors to Canada, so you need to consider how to get health insurance in Canada before your departure. If you’re an expat planning for a longer stay, international health insurance will help you avoid steep medical bills in the event you are ill or injured. If you’ll be visiting Canada for a shorter time, meaning your visit will last for less than a year, you have the choice of signing up for travel medical insurance.

In addition, think about what type of activities you’ll be engaging in on your trip so you can select the right travel health plan. For example, if you enjoy hitting the slopes, you might need a plan that covers adventure sports. That way, if you fracture your wrist while snowboarding at Whistler, your medical care will still be covered.

Are you also looking for protection that will cover you if your trip is canceled for reasons outside of your control, such as an emergency illness or accident? Consider a trip cancellation plan.

Also Read: Travel Insurance for Visitors to Canada

Group Medical Insurance in Canada for International Employees

International employers know that a quality benefits package, including health insurance, is vital to employees’ peace of mind and well-being. Employees who are citizens or permanent residents in Canada should be eligible to enroll in Medicare in their home province or territory, but because Canada’s system usually does not cover dental care, prescription medications, and ambulance services, you could offer these employees additional private insurance with this coverage.

For your international employees in Canada, a comprehensive international group health insurance plan will provide worldwide coverage, including in their country of citizenship. A group international health plan is a great option if you have two or more international employees living in Canada.

Our team of licensed agents is available to help you determine the coverage and benefits required to protect your employees while they are outside their home country. You’ll be able to design a plan to meet their needs and your budget.

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (6)

Global Benefits for Organizations

  • Offering group plans for international health, life and travel
  • Request a quote from the leading insurers around the globe
  • A licensed agent will provide quotes and expert advice

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Global Medical Care in Canada

Canada’s federal government sets the guidelines and standards for Medicare. The program aims to ensure an equal level of accessibility across the country for all enrollees. Yet the availability of medical care varies by location. Fewer doctors practice in rural areas, so rural residents may have to travel to regional hospitals for treatment. Seeing a specialist may require an even longer trip.

Provinces and territories are responsible for administering Canada’s national insurance program, and each one has different enrollment and coverage practices. However, people enrolled in Medicare in their home province or territory will have insurance when visiting other parts of Canada. Foreigners in Canada will need international health insurance to cover hospital stays and other medical care.

Also Read: Canada’s Healthcare System

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (7)

Cigna Global Insurance Plan

  • The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
  • Access to Cigna Global’s trusted network of hospitals and doctors
  • The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service

Plan Details | View Brochure

Plan Details

Get a Quote

Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (8)

Xplorer Worldwide Medical Plan

  • Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
  • Define your deductible and prescription benefits
  • For Foreigners in the US or US citizens abroad

Plan Details | View Brochure

Plan Details

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How to Find a Family Physician or GP in Canada

The process for finding a family physician in Canada changes depending on where you live. In Ontario, for example, the Health Care Connect program helps match you with a primary care provider.

If you don’t have a family physician or GP, you can visit a walk-in clinic or community health center for non-urgent matters. The online tool Medimap allows users to search for nearby medical providers. Expats who have international insurance can also turn to their insurance provider for help locating physicians in their area.

How to Get Hospital Care in Canada

Canada is home to some of the world’s best hospitals. These hospitals are almost always nonprofits, but this does not mean they provide their services for free! Expats who do not have international insurance will have to pay for hospital care themselves.

There are private for-profit facilities in Canada. These include diagnostic labs, physical therapy clinics, and cosmetic surgery centers. Private international insurance plans can be tailored to cover services at these facilities. Expats with the option to visit private healthcare settings will experience shorter wait times for medical care.


  • Hospitals in Canada for Expatriates
  • Canadian Healthcare System
  • Travel Insurance and Safety for Visitors to Canada
Author: Joe Cronin, Founder and President of International Citizens Insurance. Mr. Cronin, a former expat, is an authority in the areas of international travel, and global health, life, and travel insurance, with expertise in advising individuals and groups on benefits for today's global workforce. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Health Insurance in Canada for Foreigners (2024)


Can a non citizen get health insurance in Canada? ›

Permanent residents in Canada qualify for provincial/territorial health insurance, but they should apply as soon as possible after arriving, and there can be a waiting period. Refugees and refugee claimants may qualify for coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program.

Can a US citizen get Canadian health insurance? ›

Yes, US citizens can get health insurance in Canada. If they are living in Canada, they are eligible to apply for provincial healthcare so long as they meet all residency requirements and have gone through the waiting period for their province if there is one.

Does my US health insurance cover me in Canada? ›

However, U.S. government health insurance plans do not pay for hospital costs, medical expenses or prescription drugs for visitors to Canada. But if you have private insurance, you can check with your provider to see if you have coverage while abroad.

How much does health insurance cost per month in Canada? ›

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Does Canada give free healthcare to non citizens? ›

Non-citizens such as temporary legal visitors and undocumented immigrants are not entitled to Medicare but provinces and territories may provide limited emergency services to these populations since medical care can't be refused in an emergency.

What happens if a foreigner goes to the hospital in Canada? ›

If you are not a Canadian resident with a valid health card, you will be responsible for the cost of your care. Health PEI charges fees for a variety of services which can differ between facilities. Fees are subject to change without notice. You may also be charged a fee for accessing your health records (fees vary).

How long do you have to live in Canada to get free healthcare? ›

To qualify for provincial healthcare, you have to reside in Canada for at least three months. It's advised that you use private health insurance in the interim. If you move between provinces, you can continue to use your existing card for the next three months while you're moved into your new province's health system.

What happens if an American gets sick in Canada? ›

If during your visit to Canada you get sick or injured, the Canadian government won't pay for any hospitalization or emergency medical services for visitors. Also, if you don't have proper medical insurance coverage, you will be liable to pay for any medical service out of your own pocket.

Can you use Medicare in Canada? ›

In most situations, Medicare won't pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S. The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Can I go to the ER in Canada without insurance? ›

We do not have employers, insurance companies, or the government deciding what treatment we can have. Anyone who needs it can go to an Emergency room and get treatment. If they are not a Canadian resident or are a new resident who hasn't completed the waiting period (typically, 90 days), they will get a bill.

Do I need health insurance when visiting Canada? ›

Travel insurance is a necessary contingency for getting sick or injured in Canada. Unlike other Commonwealth countries such as Australia, there isn't a reciprocal health agreement between Canada and the UK, so while healthcare is readily available, it could be very expensive. The emergency services number is 911 or 0.

Do I need health insurance when traveling to Canada? ›

Do visitors to Canada need health insurance? Visitors traveling to Canada and to any country outside of their home country should have visitors health insurance. Most domestic policies will only cover you in your home country and have little to no coverage once you are traveling abroad.

Is Canada or the US better to live in? ›

Canadian air quality tends to be better, and Canadians have a longer life expectancy. Moreover, Canada boasts a high percentage of passport holders, allowing for easy international travel. In contrast, the USA may offer a faster-paced lifestyle, but air pollution is higher, and life expectancy is slightly lower.

Which health insurance is best in Canada? ›

Best companies for…
  • Blue Cross: Best for prescription medication & dental coverage.
  • Canada Life: Best for vision coverage.
  • Desjardin: Best for bundling with other products.
  • GMS: Best for multiple plan options.
  • Greenshield: Best for paramedical (chiro, physio, massage, etc.) ...
  • Manulife: Best for customization.
Feb 1, 2024

Is Canadian health insurance expensive? ›

How much does health insurance in Canada cost? Private health insurance in Canada costs about $756 annually or about $63 per month, according to the latest figures gathered by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Who is eligible for health insurance in Canada? ›

Who's covered under the government health insurance plan in Canada? Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents are covered under the government health insurance plan. You must have a provincial health insurance card from the province or territory where you live.

Can a tourist get medical treatment in Canada? ›

Canada does not pay for hospital or medical services for visitors. You should get health insurance to cover any medical costs before you come to Canada.

Who is eligible for insurance in Canada? ›

Who's eligible for Personal Health Insurance?
  • Legally living in Canada, and.
  • Covered under the provincial health plan in your province of residence.

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