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Getting your MSP as an International Student in Vancouver | Setting up your local health insurance

Updated: Aug 17, 2023


Having health insurance when you come as an international student to Canada is not only important for obvious reasons (your health), but is also a requirement to be able to come here! What most students do is purchase their medical insurance for just a couple of months while they can apply for their provincial health plan. How does this work?


In the case of students coming to Vancouver, you need to apply for your Medical Services Plan (MSP) as soon as you arrive in Canada. Take into consideration that the waiting time for your MSP plan to be active is 3 months. So we recommend getting private insurance to arrive in Vancouver for at least 4 months. That way, you can be covered while in your waiting period for the MSP.


How to Apply

Step 1

Make sure you are actually eligible to apply. The only requirements for international students to be able to apply for the MSP are to have a student visa that is valid for at least 6 months and a local home address. So please apply once you find permanent or relatively permanent accommodation.


Step 2

Apply online on the official BC government’s website. You’ll need to have your information handy, like your study permit and contact information.


Step 3

Make sure that your private insurance will cover you until the estimated date you will receive your MSP. Remember that the 3-month waiting period starts from the time you submit your application, not from when you arrive in Canada. So we encourage you to double-check that and extend your private insurance coverage if necessary 😉

Step 4

Receive your MSP! Once the 3-month waiting period has passed. If everything is in order with your application, you will receive a BC Services Card in the mail. This card contains your Personal Health Number (PHN), which is the number you will need to provide every time you use health services like clinics and hospitals.


Once you have received your card, every month, you will receive an invoice for $75 CAD that you will need to pay while you are still under international student status. You can pay this fee online, and keep in mind that not paying it will carry the amount owed to the next bill and a notice of overdue payment.


What does the MSP include?


Everything related to medical services that are considered essential or required. These include medical services provided by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, eye examinations if medically required and some orthodontic services.

Services or procedures that are not included are the following:

  • Services that are deemed to be not medically required, such as cosmetic surgery;

  • Dental services, except as outlined under benefits;

  • Routine eye examinations for persons 19 to 64 years of age;

  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, and other equipment or appliances;

  • Prescription drugs (because that is covered under PharmaCare);

  • Acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry services (except for MSP beneficiaries receiving supplementary benefits);

  • Preventive services and screening tests not supported by evidence of medical effectiveness (for example, routine annual "complete" physical examinations, whole-body CT scans and Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) tests)

  • Services of counsellors or psychologists

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