Healthcare in Canada: Full Guide for Immigrants

How Does the Canadian Healthcare System Work?

The Canadian healthcare system is a decentralized, publicly funded system that allows universal healthcare access. The government sets the rules for the design, but provinces and territories decide how to make those rules work in their communities.

The primary responsibility for providing health services within Canada lies with provincial governments. The federal government provides funding to provinces and territories through transfers. 

The amount of money each section receives depends on:

  • how many people live there,
  • how much they earn, 
  • whether they have any particular needs, such as mental health or addiction services.

Each province has its plan for delivering health services to its citizens. For example, it decides which hospitals should provide what kind of care and where those facilities should be located. It also determines how much it wants to spend on hospitals and other healthcare providers each year based on its population size and budget needs.

Provinces typically fund their programs through taxes on all residents within their borders. 

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Who is Eligible for Healthcare in Canada?

Something you should know about life in Canada… The Canadian healthcare system is designed for everyone, regardless of age or income. The government has set criteria that determine who is eligible for healthcare in Canada. To be eligible for healthcare in Canada, you will need to meet the following criteria:

Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident

If you are already a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, then you will automatically be eligible for healthcare under the Canadian provincial health insurance plan.

If not… The first step to becoming eligible for healthcare is to become a permanent resident of Canada. After you have been accepted as a permanent resident, you must complete medical testing and pass the test with flying colors before you can be considered eligible for healthcare.

Be physically present in Canada at the time of your application

You cannot submit your application from abroad, as you must prove your residency in Canada and be physically available in Canada.

Be mentally capable of making decisions about your healthcare

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How to Access Canada's Health Care as an Immigrant? 3 Options

Apply for a Canada Health Card

This card is free and can be obtained at any Canadian doctor’s office or hospital, is a proof that you are legally entitled to medical services in Canada.

Get provincial health insurance coverage

You can get it through your employer or the government. If you are working or receiving social assistance in Canada, your employer may be required by law to provide some level of coverage. If not, you can buy provincial health insurance outside work hours.

Get public insurance coverage through the provincial government

If you have a valid work visa (such as a study visa) and cannot get an employer-sponsored plan, then you may also be eligible for public insurance coverage through the provincial government.

What Services are Covered Under Healthcare in Canada?

Provincial and territorial governments provide healthcare coverage to all residents, including children and seniors. In some provinces and territories, different levels of coverage may be available depending on age or income level.

Some provinces have universal health insurance systems that provide primary coverage for everyone regardless of their health status or where they live. 

In addition, healthcare system in Canada offers a wide range of services for patients and their families. These services include:


Providing specialized care to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries and to treat complications from diagnosed conditions.


Providing primary medical care such as checkups, minor surgeries, and treatments for acute problems such as colds, flu, allergies, burns, and cuts; and some diagnostic tests.

Dental Care

Providing preventative dental care that includes teeth cleaning, extractions and fillings, dental implants, periodontal work, root canal therapy and dentures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Healthcare in Canada

Generally speaking, medical care is free for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, if you are not a citizen or permanent resident, you may have to pay for some treatments up front. 

Depending on the province or territory in which you live, certain fees may apply. Contact your local government office for more information.

Even if you don’t have a government health card, the Canadian government offers free emergency medical treatments depending on your immigration status. 

You should go to the closest hospital if you have an emergency. A walk-in clinic might charge you if you are not a resident of that province or territory.

All citizens and permanent residents are entitled to free point-of-use hospital and medical treatments. 

In addition, provinces and territories offer a certain amount of coverage for specific categories to pay for excluded treatments, such as outpatient prescription medications and dental care.

To qualify for and maintain Canadian health insurance, you must reside in Canada for most of the year. 

This usually entails physically spending at least six months each year in Canada. However, it varies a little per province.


These are the advantages that canadian immigrants get:

  • Child Benefit Canada (CCB).
  • Credit for the goods and services or harmonized sales tax (GST/HST).
  • Benefits for the province or territory.