How Long Does It Take to Access Public Healthcare in Quebec as an International Student?

Published on: April 29th, 2024

The duration of obtaining health coverage as an international student in Quebec can vary based on individual circumstances, the educational institution, and the completeness and accuracy of the submitted documentation.

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Navigating the process of securing health coverage in Quebec as an international student involves understanding several key timelines and requirements. The journey to obtaining health insurance through the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) can vary significantly depending on whether you come from a country that has a social security agreement with Quebec.

Students from countries with such agreements typically find the path to coverage shorter and more straightforward, often facing fewer bureaucratic hurdles and accessing healthcare services that cover a significant portion of their study duration. In contrast, students from countries without agreements will encounter additional steps and a longer wait time. Even after finishing their studies, they may need to rely on private health insurance before they can qualify for RAMQ coverage.

For detailed information on which students are covered and which aren’t, and to understand the specific differences based on country agreements, be sure to read the full article: Quebec Health Insurance Plan for International Students.

In this section, we break down the typical timeline for both scenarios, providing a clear picture of what international students can expect when planning their health coverage in Quebec.

International Students from countries that have a social security agreement with Quebec

  1. Gathering Necessary Documents: Prior to your arrival in Quebec, it is crucial to compile all essential documents. This includes your study permit, acceptance and enrollment proof from your educational institution, Quebec residency proof, and documentation of enrollment in your home country’s social security system.
  2. Completing and Submitting Your Application: You can apply for public health plan coverage as soon as you arrive in Quebec. Applications can be filled out online or in person at a RAMQ office. Many educational institutions provide assistance through their international student offices. If your documents are in order, submitting your application should take only a few minutes.
  3. Waiting Period: After submitting your application, there is a standard waiting period, typically about three months, during which it is advisable to maintain private health insurance to address any immediate medical needs.
  4. Activation: Following the waiting period, if your application is approved, your RAMQ coverage will commence. RAMQ will notify you about the start date of your coverage and when to expect your health insurance card.
  5. Receipt of Health Insurance Card: You should receive your Quebec health insurance card approximately one month after your coverage begins. This card is essential for accessing health services under RAMQ.

Total Duration: From the application submission to the receipt of your health insurance card, the entire process usually spans between three to five months, contingent on how efficiently the paperwork is processed and the promptness of your document submission.

What International Students from Countries without Agreements with Quebec Need to Know

International students from countries without health or social security agreements with Quebec are not immediately eligible for coverage under the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). Initially, these students must secure private health insurance to meet study permit conditions and cover medical expenses during their studies in Quebec. Educational institutions often offer specific insurance plans tailored for their international students, or alternatively, plans can be purchased from private insurers. However, eligibility for RAMQ coverage becomes possible after graduation for those who obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This permit not only allows graduates to work in Canada but also qualifies them for RAMQ once they meet residency and other eligibility criteria, thus facilitating access to provincial health insurance without needing a bilateral health agreement.

My Journey Through Quebec’s Health Insurance Maze as a not Covered International Student

Reflecting on my journey that began in May 2022, I draw from firsthand experience when discussing the challenges of navigating Quebec’s healthcare system. Coming from a country without a healthcare agreement with Quebec, I anticipated additional complexities and costs in my initial years.

I moved from my home country to Quebec to pursue an Attestation of College Studies (AEC) program. To comply with the requirements set by Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) across Canada, securing international health insurance was crucial for my acceptance and entry into the program. This insurance provided essential coverage for my medical needs throughout my one-and-a-half-year study period.

After completing my studies in mid-2023, I entered the next phase of my life in Quebec by obtaining a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This change in status made me eligible to apply for provincial health insurance through the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). I submitted my application in July 2023, eager to join the public health insurance system.

The waiting period tested my patience. In October 2023, RAMQ officially notified me that my coverage would start in January 2024, requiring me to rely on my international health insurance for a few more months until the provincial coverage began.

However, the wait didn’t end there; I did not receive my health insurance card until March 2024. Without this card, accessing full-service coverage and scheduling proper doctor’s appointments was impossible. From the time of my application to the moment I received my card, the total duration was seven months.

For international students from countries without healthcare agreements with Quebec, planning and patience are essential. Ensure you have adequate international health coverage to bridge the gap until you can secure RAMQ coverage. Remember, obtaining your health insurance card can take time, so prepare for potential delays and maintain your initial coverage until you have full access to RAMQ services. This proactive approach will help you manage healthcare needs effectively during your studies and beyond in Quebec.


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