Government health insurance eligibility in Canada varies from one province to another. In most provinces, Canadian citizens moving back into the country will only be able to use their provincial health care coverage after 2-3 months of re-establishing their residence.

While this is not applicable in all provinces, in places like Saskatchewan, Quebec, Yukon, or British Columbia, the medical plan and healthcare coverage will only begin 2 to 3 months following your arrival due to a waiting period.

If you are a returning citizen and your provincial medical care plan has been deactivated owing to your absence, then it is suggested you protect yourself from the costs of any urgent health care needs by seeking a medical emergency insurance plan for Returning Canadians.

If you fail to have adequate protection and an illness, accident, or medical emergency occurs while you are waiting for provincial healthcare coverage, you will be expected to pay for the healthcare-related services you obtain out of your own pocket.

Regardless of whether you intend to stay for a few days, a few months, or a few years, purchasing medical emergency insurance is necessary because even though the Canadian healthcare system remains one of the best in the world, it can be quite costly if you don’t have coverage.

And just as was noted above, every Canadian province and territory administers its own health plan and most of them have at least a 90-day waiting period before you can qualify for benefits.

How to Transfer your Health Insurance and Make Sure It is Up to Date

Canadians moving back to the country after spending time abroad most definitely will have to seek a job, find a place to live, register a new driver’s license and health card, get a doctor, and ensure that their name gets back on the voter’s list, obtain child care, schools and recreational facilities and many other things. However, to transfer your health insurance and keep it up to date, here are steps and processes to consider;

  • Check your province or city service center website for your nearest location. Most of these offices are open from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Before you visit your province service Centre, consider downloading and filling in the necessary Registration for Health Insurance Coverage. Most often, English and French language versions of the form will be available. You can choose to pick up a copy at your province or state service center. Each person in your family will need a separate form.
  • Arrange your three pieces of ID that serve as proof of your citizenship in Canada, proof you live in the province or city, and confirm your identity. If you are not so certain of the exact items that are acceptable, consult your province or state service center website for a complete list of documents you need to get a health card. Most provinces will not accept photocopies of documents.
  • Visit your province or city service center in person with your completed form and three original, valid forms of ID. Your province or city service center may be able to direct you to their busier times to avoid long line-ups. Most often, earlier in the morning is less busy than later in the day. If you have children or dependents who are aged 15-and-a-half years or younger, you can apply on behalf of your children. Older children will be expected to apply in person, as they will have to sign their own form and have their photos taken. A service clerk will process your application and take your photo. In most places, your health card is free of charge.
  • Once approved, your health card will be mailed to you and will take one to two weeks to arrive. Currently, there is no waiting period to apply for a health card in most places, however, this may change in the future, and if so, a staff at your province or city service center will look at your documents to assess when your three-month waiting period starts. Your health card will be mailed to you after that date.


Currently, registering for public health insurance in Canada requires meeting very rigorous identification requirements. For returning Canadian Citizens, the Canadian health care and medical system is a very vital consideration.

You can sign up for health insurance when you get into the country via a combination of online and offline steps (including usually visiting a government office with proof that you are now living in Canada) and within 3 months you are insured. In the meantime, you must obtain private coverage or be covered by your current health care insurance.