HEALTHCARE IN CANADA FOR NON-RESIDENTS: DO I NEED MEDICAL INSURANCE?

Canada enjoys an enviable reputation around the world as a great place to visit and an even better place to live. For visitors and residents alike, one of the most attractive things about life in Canada is its universal health care system.In addition to having highly respected medical education and training institutions and a leading healthcare system, Canadian citizens and permanent residents do not have to pay for most healthcare services. This includes visits to family doctors and hospitals, and medical attention for most common ailments and injuries. 


But the story is quite different if you are not a citizen or permanent resident. Contrary to what many visitors and Canadians believe, health care in Canada for non-residents and visitors is not provided free of charge.


You need medical insurance if you’re travelling to Canada as a tourist or as a non-resident.   


Another misconception about health care in Canada is that, even if you have to pay for healthcare, it’s not so expensive. Many non-residents are surprised to learn that a regular stay in a public hospital in Canada can cost as much as $5,000 per day. And if you are unfortunate enough to need intensive care, that cost can be double.

Who is Not Covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care System

Universal healthcare in Canada is administered by each of the country’s provinces. While the provincial health insurance plans are similar, there are differences. Non-residents and visitors should research the health care coverage of the province(s) they’ll be visiting or residing in during their stay. Generally speaking, people in the following groups must pay for full medical costs for treatment in Canada themselves or through private insurance coverage.

  • Non-Residents – Recent arrivals to Canada who do not yet have permanent resident or citizenship status. This includes those who are visiting or staying with family who are Canadian permanent residents or citizens. 
  • Visitors to Canada – If you are visiting Canada on holiday, to study at a Canadian school or for employment for periods of less than six months, you will generally need to provide your own health insurance coverage. Again, this includes those who are visiting or staying with family who are Canadian permanent residents or citizens.
  • Returning Canadians – Even if you are a Canadian who is entitled to provincial health care, the coverage can lapse if you have been out of the country for an extended period. You may need to reapply for your provincial health card upon your return to the country.


Canadian non-residents and visitors need to know that the national health insurance plans in their home countries may not cover medical costs incurred in Canada. The national health insurance programs of most countries do not cover the costs of health care needed following an accident or medical emergency.


The Canadian government recommends that non-residents and visitors get health insurance coverage before they visit the country. Insurance company coverages can vary. Coverage can be affected by pre-existing medical conditions and/or your age. Those who wait to get coverage after they arrive in Canada can face other limitations to their coverage. 

What Health Care Costs Should be Covered by Medical Insurance

Medical insurance for visitors and non-residents should include coverage for the following health care costs, among others.

  • Hospital outpatient fees for emergency visits and outpatient clinic visits, including those for ambulatory care, childbirth and day surgery.

  • Inpatient costs, including room accommodations, ambulance costs, mobility devices, orthopedic casting, imaging and scanning (X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, etc.), lab and physician fees.


To learn more about medical insurance for non-residents in Canada, please contact us here at Serving People Group.

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