Note: if you have a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the emergency room of your nearest hospital
Newcomers have a lot to stress about when moving to Canada!
Even from the first stage of your application, getting the documents together is when it starts, then you are waiting to be selected from the pool and get an ITA…and it feels like the stress doesn’t stop when you land (clear immigration at the airport, get a SIN number, find a place to live…).
Once you have safely arrived here, the things on your mind will mostly be money, housing, and finding a job. Yet more stress!
But what about you/your family’s health?
Today let’s look at health care in Canada, and what you as a newcomer should do to reduce some of that stress!
What is healthcare like in Canada?
Healthcare systems around the world vary from country to country.
Canada is a country with a mostly universal healthcare system, run by the provinces.
Understand how health care works in Canada
On this page If you're a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you may apply for public health insurance. With it…
If you’re a permanent resident (or citizen), public health insurance is available for you, paid by taxes that all Canadian workers pay.
This means you don’t have to pay for most health-care services.
However most costs related to dental and eye care are not covered by the provincial system. For many residents of Canada, your teeth and eyes are mostly* covered by private insurance offered to you through your workplace, when you have a job.
*Medically-necessary procedures will usually be paid for via national health insurance, but cosmetic or other treatments considered not medically necessary may not be covered and you will have to pay some of the bill
Your first 3–6 months (varies by province)
Each province has their own healthcare program (e.g. OHIP in Ontario, AHCIP in Alberta).
To register you must first meet the rules of residency. In other words you must be living here in order to sign up.
Before COVID, the rules varied in each province (e.g. Ontario’s OHIP program required you apply after being resident in Canada for at least 90 days).
Currently, due to COVID there is no residency/waiting requirement in Ontario, for example.
However things may change back to the pre-Covid rules, so it is recommended that you look into private insurance (similar to travel insurance) to cover any initial period when you are living in Canada and are not eligible to join the local system.
Register with your Province
Living in Ontario I am registered with OHIP. I did this in a Service Ontario, bringing a Registration form and the necessary documents:
- original ID that proves your citizenship or OHIP-eligible status (e.g. Permanent Resident Card )
- original ID that proves you live in Ontario (e.g. Ontario Driver’s Licence)
- proof of ID (e.g. passport)
This page by Arrive has guidance on the different systems in each province so please refer to it depending on your destination!
Find a Family Doctor & a Dentist
Residents are encouraged to register with a local doctor (also known as a general practitioner, GP) who will be your first point of contact with the health system here.
Often you, your partner, and any children in your family will see register at the same clinic, and have the same doctor. Therefore, this is commonly known as having a family doctor.
You can find one in several ways. Since I live in Ontario I used a website called Health Care Connect to find a new doctor here. After a call with the program I completed an interview to share my relevant health details. Then I was assigned to a Care Connector, who found me a family doctor.
To find a dentist was simpler; I went on google and searched for the best-reviewed dentists in my local area! I just called to register, making sure to tell them I had an OHIP card, and that was it!
What happens if you get sick here?
Every part of Canada offers free health advice by phone (names differ by province e.g. TeleHealth in Ontario). You can call a number (differs by province or city) and receive advice from a registered nurse (RN).
The phone service is operated by RNs 24/7, and they can help you to manage your symptoms at home, or guide you to the correct part of the healthcare system to get help in-person.
If you need help and don’t have insurance, you can search for “walk-in clinics” in your local area. You will have to pay the cost of your visit and any treatment directly.
You can also search for community health centres (CHC) and call them, explaining your need, and your insurance or residence status (e.g. I have PR but I’m still waiting X days until I can register with AHCIP). They may be able to take you.
Again- if you have an emergency situation and need urgent help, you can either call 911, or go to the emergency department of the nearest hospital
While we all hope that medical attention or care is something we don’t want to deal with, it can be necessary. Hopefully this guide can help you feel comfortable understanding how the system works in Canada, and you can smoothly join your local province’s healthcare system.
To all the newcomers in Canada, I wish you happy & healthy days ahead!
Previous Articles in the Series:
- Pre- & Post-Arrival Services
- Your LinkedIn Profile
- How to Structure Your Job Search
- Prepare for Your Job interview
- The Interview (In-person and Video)
- Connection Request on LinkedIn
- Building Strong Relationships
- Resume and Cover Letter Tips
- LinkedIn Power Details
- Follow and Unfollow
- Informational Interviews
- Mentoring & Associations
- Bridging Programs
- Dealing with Rejection
- Starting a Job During COVID
- First months on the Job During COVID
- Planning your Job Search, Plan A, B, C to Z
- Canadian Experience
- Finding Temporary Accommodation
- Leasing a Home
Future Topics, Coming Soon!
- Your request here!
If you have requests for any more topics, or want to add information of your own, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Good luck with your journey as a newcomer and job-seeker here in Canada!
Who Am I?
Hello, I am Garry. Nice to meet you. Here is my LinkedIn profile. After 15yrs living in Japan, I moved to Canada in late 2019. Since I got here, I have learned a lot from friends, great mentors and advisors, pre- and post-arrival services, and good old-fashioned internet research! I would like to share that advice with you and help you on your journey here in Canada.
Also earlier in 2020 I talked about some of these things in a LinkedIn article, and in a webinar with NewCanadians I discussed with some smart people about the newcomer’s job search and the impacts of COVID-19. I was also featured in a podcast of Immigrants of Toronto in early 2021. Please check them out!