Medical Services Plan (MSP) for international students

About BC Medical Services Plan (MSP)

The British Columbia (BC) government Medical Services Plan (BC MSP) is a mandatory public health insurance plan for everyone who lives in BC for 6 months or longer. The BC MSP is an important part of benefitting from the health care available to all BC residents.The plan covers the cost of basic medical care within Canada, including most physician and hospital services. If you are not enrolled, you will have to pay for medical expenses independently.

See health insurance for international students to learn about the differences between iMED, MSP, and the AMS/GSS Health and Dental Plan.

Who is eligible and how do I apply?

If you will live in BC for 6 months or longer, you are required by law to enrol in MSP. If you are a study permit holder, you’re required to pay the plan’s health-care coverage fee.

You must apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in BC. You cannot apply for MSP before you arrive.

Apply for MSP

When am I covered?

There is a 3-month waiting period before MSP coverage begins: this is the balance of the month in which you arrive in British Columbia (BC), plus two full calendar months. For example, if you arrive in BC on August 25, you are eligible for MSP coverage starting November 1.

To cover the waiting period for MSP, most new-to-UBC international students are covered by iMED health insurance for your first 3 months in Canada. Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and returning international students whose iMED insurance policy has already expired and are not re-enrolled for iMED are advised to join the Global Campus Health Plan during the 3-month MSP waiting period.

BC MSP coverage will be provided to the same expiry date as your status in Canada (e.g., study permit, work permit, visitor record), unless you leave BC for an extended period.

If you extend your study permit or get a Post-Graduation Work Permit, you must apply to extend your MSP online, otherwise you will not be covered. 

If your study permit expires before you receive your new study or work permit, you will have maintained status.It’s important to get temporary MSP coverage while under maintained status.

MSP coverage fees

As of January 1, 2020, all study permit holders are assessed a $75 health-care coverage fee per month. You must pay the British Columbia government directly.

If your family is with you in Canada, they will only be assessed the new health-care coverage fee if they also hold study permits. If they hold work permits or are here as visitors, they will not be assessed the fee.

The fees are subject to change. Check the MSP website for the most up-to-date information.

Changing from study permit to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

Even if your MSP coverage has not expired, once you get your PGWP, contact MSP by phone to update your account and request to have your fees changed. As a work permit holder, you do not need to pay the health-care coverage fee.  

Getting your MSP card

When your application is processed, your MSP card, or BC Services Card, will be mailed to the address you provided in your application. Your BC Services Card will indicate your coverage period, which should match the expiration date of your status in Canada (e.g., study permit, work permit, visitor record).

Using your MSP insurance

In most cases, you will not have to pay at the time you seek care for medically required services when you show your BC Services Card. 

MSP does not cover dental care, prescription drugs, routine vision care such as eye examinations or corrective lenses, or travel. The AMS/GSS Extended Health and Dental Plan is designed to cover these costs. Once you have MSP, you might need to register for the BC Fair PharmaCare Plan to enhance coverage for prescriptions.  

See a full list of your medical and health care benefits provided by MSP.

In general, you should go to clinics for non-urgent medical care, and hospitals for emergencies. For emergencies and for an ambulance, call 911. To learn about accessing medical services in BC, see how to access services and resources in BC or explore the BC Newcomers’ Guide, which is available in 8 languages.

UBC’s Student Health Service offers a range of health assessments and treatments on-campus. Find health support for more resources available to students.

Once your MSP coverage begins

MSP will send you an invoice in the mail each month. You need to start making payments after you receive the invoice.

Remember to tell MSP if you change your address, change your name, leave BC permanently, or need to add/remove dependents to or from your coverage (for example you get married, divorced, have a common-law partner, or have children). See the Managing your MSP Account page.

Remember to keep your MSP valid by extending your MSP coverage each time you extend your temporary residency in Canada (for example, when you extend your study permit or get a Post-Graduation Work Permit). Be sure to understand how having maintained status can affect your coverage, if your study or work permit will expire while you are in Canada.

Maintaining your MSP coverage

Generally, your MSP coverage will have the same expiry date as your status in Canada, such as the expiry date of your study permit or Post-Graduation Work Permit. 

If you extend your immigration documents, make sure you extend your MSP coverage as soon as you get your new study or work permit.

Extend your MSP

How having maintained status impacts your MSP coverage

You will have “maintained status" (formerly called "implied status") if all of the following applies to you:

  • You applied for a new immigration document, such as a study or work permit, before the old one expired.
  • You remain in Canada.
  • You won’t receive a new immigration document before your old one expires.

If you are waiting for your study permit or Post-Graduation Work Permit (PWGP)

Before you get your new immigration document

If you have applied to renew your study permit or applied for a PGWP before your study permit expired and you are still waiting for the approval while your current study permit has expired, you have “maintained status” and can legally stay in Canada. You should call MSP to request temporary coverage for an initial 6 months while you are on maintained status. During the initial 6 months, the ongoing application for a new immigration document should reach a decision. This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing condition which may not be covered by private health insurance, such as pregnancy.

As of May 1, 2022, temporary health insurance coverage with MSP is available to those on maintained status who meet MSP’s eligibility requirements. This also applies to your dependents who are currently residents of BC. 

If MSP approves your request for temporary coverage, ask them to confirm what your coverage start date will be and until when the coverage will be provided. If you and your family members are study permit holders, you will continue to be charged the monthly healthcare coverage fee. 

You will need to submit an MSP extension application and provide all of the following documents instead of a copy of your study or work permit:

  • A letter written by yourself explaining your status and your request for temporary coverage, such as, “I would like to request temporary coverage of BC MSP as I applied to extend my immigration documents before my BC MSP and immigration status expired and was advised by a Health Insurance BC agent that I am eligible for coverage during maintained status”. Review the MSP Temporary Coverage Sample Letter (pdf).
  • A copy of the IRCC submission confirmation (PDF) confirming that IRCC received your immigration application. To find your confirmation, log into your IRCC online account.

If MSP is not able to provide temporary coverage, purchase temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan to cover you until you can reinstate your MSP coverage.

After you get your new immigration document

Once you get your new immigration document, you will need to extend or reapply for MSP. 

If you were approved for MSP temporary coverage, apply to extend your MSP online with a copy of your new study or work permit.

If you were not approved for MSP temporary coverage, depending on the length of the gap in MSP coverage, you will either be able to get an extension of your MSP, or you will need to reapply for MSP. You must contact MSP by phone to confirm your eligibility as it will depend on your individual circumstances.

If you will need to reapply for MSP and serve the 3-month MSP waiting period again, be sure to purchase temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, to cover you during the 3-month waiting period.

If you can extend your MSP and you hold a study permit, you will continue to be charged the monthly healthcare coverage fee.

MSP coverage outside of BC

Maintaining your MSP eligibility

If you’re leaving British Columbia (BC) temporarily due to a co-op placement or travel plans, you will continue being billed for your health-care coverage fee. 

To remain eligible for MSP, you need to live in BC for a minimum of 6 months in one calendar year. If you are absent from BC for more than 6 months, you may need to re-apply when you return to the province and go through the approximately 3-month waiting period again. Be sure to get temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, for your waiting period. 

For example, if you live outside of BC between May and December in 2022, you may need to reapply for your health insurance. However, if you are away from BC between September 2022 and April 2023, you remain eligible for MSP because you are only absent from the province for 4 months in each calendar year.

For more information, visit the Leaving BC Temporarily website

Before leaving BC

Make sure you understand MSP’s residency requirements and call MSP to discuss how your coverage could be impacted by travel plans. It will help if you know the exact dates when you will be traveling outside BC.

If you will be in another Canadian province or territory

You might be able to continue to use MSP coverage for 3 months outside of BC, which could be used to cover your waiting period in another province or territory. To confirm your eligibility for coverage outside of BC and options to cancel your MSP, contact MSP by phone.

Different provinces and territories in Canada have their own health insurance plans and they do not all provide coverage for international students. Check with the province or territory’s health insurance plan if you are eligible to join and how to apply. If you are not eligible, be sure to purchase temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan

If you will be outside of Canada

If you will be outside Canada for less than six months, you have the option to keep or cancel MSP. 

If you will be outside of Canada for more than six months in a calendar year, contact MSP by phone to confirm your eligibility. You might need to cancel your MSP coverage, or you might be given the option to keep MSP.    

If you're eligible and you decide to keep MSP, you do not have to reapply or have a 3-month waiting period when you return.

If you cancel MSP, you have to reapply when you return to BC and get temporary private health insurance such as the Global Campus Health Plan before you return to Canada to cover you during the MSP 3-month waiting period. 

Ensure you have health insurance outside of Canada. If you are purchasing health insurance, make sure you will have adequate coverage as some private health insurance companies are no longer covering COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses. 

Upon return to British Columbia

If you aren’t sure whether or not you are eligible for coverage, you must call MSP to confirm, particularly if you have been outside of BC for more than 6 months in a calendar year. 

If you must re-apply for MSP and go through the 3-month waiting period for MSP again, be sure to obtain temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, to cover you until you are covered under MSP.

Before purchasing temporary private health insurance, make sure that you will have adequate coverage as some private health insurance companies are no longer covering COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses.

Enrolling your family

If your family members plan to reside in BC for six months or more, they may also be eligible for MSP.

If your family members arrive in BC with you within the same calendar month, you can all apply for MSP at the same time. 

If your family members arrive in BC at a later date (outside of the same calendar month), use the MSP Account Change form to add them to your existing MSP. 

Remember to include photocopies of every family members’ Canadian status document (such as a study permit, visitor record, or work permit) valid for six months or more in the application. Some visitors will only have an entry stamp in their passports; use this as their status document.

Also remember that your family members will need to go through the 3-month waiting period and should purchase a temporary private health insurance, such as the iMED (if you are still covered), or the Global Campus Health Plan, for that period.

If your child is born in BC, you can add them to your MSP.

See adding or removing dependents to learn more.

If you have questions

Health and wellbeing resources

If you’re studying in or outside of Canada, there are support options available to you. Answer a few questions and find the resources specific to you. 

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International Student Guide

Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at UBC's Vancouver campus.

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