Did you know that there are provincial healthcare qualification restrictions on travelling abroad, in addition to restrictions by the countries you may plan on visiting for an extended period?

Canadians like to frequent our North American counterparts, the U.S. and Mexico. We also like to travel to where our families have their roots. Sometimes, those trips abroad are not just a few days’ jaunt but extended to weeks and even months. Why? To enjoy a winter vacation, retirement travel or just to reunite and spend time with those we love.

If you are travelling for an extended period of time, there are two things you need to know:

  • how long you can stay away and still qualify for your provincial coverage, and
  • how long the country you are visiting will allow you to stay.

How long can you stay away and still qualify for your provincial coverage?

Every province and territory has residency rules that must be followed in order to remain eligible for your provincial health insurance coverage. If you stay out of the country (or even out of province) for too long, you can risk being ineligible and losing your health card privileges.

Here are the maximum durations you can be away and still maintain your health care coverage:

  • 6 Months
    Quebec, PEI, Northwest Territories and Yukon
  • 7 Months
    B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
  • 8 Months
    Newfoundland and Labrador
  • 12 Months

What happens if you stay away longer than the maximum duration?

If you purchase travel medical insurance it will become void at the moment you fail to qualify for provincial healthcare coverage. Your provincial health plan must remain active for the entire duration of your trip.

You will need to requalify for provincial health coverage if you leave and stay out of Canada beyond the maximum provincial time limits. That means that when you return to Canada, you will not be covered for any of your medical expenses and you’ll be responsible for paying out of pocket for doctor’s visits, testing, treatment, procedures and hospitalization.

Getting provincial health benefits back after losing them usually requires living in the province for three months, at which point coverage begins again.

You can request extended leave through your provincial health care body if you need to be out of province for longer than the standard duration your province allows.

And remember, take your health card with you when you travel outside of Canada — but first, make sure it’s still going to be valid when you return (check the expiry date!). You should also check to make sure your personal information is correct, including your name, birthday and current address.

How long are you welcome to visit another country?

It’s not just Canada that has “duration rules” you need to pay attention to. The country you are travelling to also has rules on how long you are welcome to stay there as a visitor, for example

  • The U.S.
    A Canadian can stay for up to 182 days per calendar year (without paying U.S. income tax).
  • The U.K.
    Visitors can stay for maximum of six months in each 12 months (not a calendar year, but counting backwards 12 months from your date of entry).
  • Mexico
    You will be issued a visitor’s visa (keep it with your passport) that is meant for tourists or people who are conducting business for six months or less (it can be renewed if you leave Mexico and re-enter).
  • Philippines
    Visitors are allowed to enter the Philippines without visas for a stay not exceeding thirty days, provided they hold valid tickets for their return.
  • Israel
    Visitors are entitled to remain in Israel for up to three months from the date of their arrival.
  • India
    An eTV visa allows a visitor to make two trips of up to 30 days per year.
  • China
    A standard tourist visa allows visits up to 30 days, and a 10-year China Visa can allow visits of 60 to 120 days, depending on the reason for the visit.
  • Hong Kong
    Canadians can visit for up to 90 days.

Be certain to check for any travel advisories before planning your trip abroad (read this article for more information).

Now that you have the facts, get ready to pack All-Inclusive Travel Insurance

When you are getting ready to go on your extended trip away from Canada, there is a lot to think about. Adequate travel insurance is the most valuable thing you can pack for you and every member of your family travelling with you.

All-Inclusive Travel Insurance covers

  • Emergency medical costs like hospital and physician services, paramedical services, emergency dental treatment and ambulance
  • Trip cancellation and interruption reimbursement of the prepaid, non-refundable, non-transferable portion of a trip cancelled or interrupted by an unexpected medical emergency, business meeting cancellation, or missed connection
  • Baggage loss, damage and delay in funds for replacing your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate or travel visa, toiletries and clothing
  • Flight and travel accidents causing death, blindness or dismemberment.

At SBIS, we make buying coverage easy

Go online to purchase your travel insurance from the comfort of your own home at any time of the day or night.

If you require any assistance at any time in the process, you may call us at 1-800-667-0429 during our regular business hours, or email us at general@sbis.ca for prompt service. We’re happy to help.