Updated: Oct 11
In Canada, when we talk about the health system, each province operates as a different country. I mean that each province has different rules and different health plans. Since I live in the province of Ontario, I will explain how the process works when you have a working holiday visa or a work permit in this province.
In this post, I will go over the process of applying for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and obtaining a health card as a work permit holder under the working holiday program.
As always, here is a little story of what happened to me when I first applied for the health card.
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I usually study everything ahead of time so I am always prepared for paperwork.
The day I went to apply for the health card, I was denied because I had the job offer plus another document to prove I was working full time, but when I got there, they told me it was not valid.
I read it all on Ontario.ca, but when I got there, they gave me a piece of paper that told me the specific contents of the letter from the employer. It did not matter that the same information was contained in the documents I was carrying.
The good part was that I didn't have to schedule a new appointment (which was otherwise difficult to schedule through COVID).
They gave me a piece of paper that said I had one week to come back, and I did not have to wait in line or schedule an appointment again.
I just had to show that paper to the guard at the door.
When I got home, I contacted HR at my company, and they prepared the letter following all the points on the sheet they gave me.
The second time I arrived at Service Ontario with the letter, and this time I left the office with a smile and my health card.
First of all, one of the requirements of the Working Holiday program is that when you arrive in Canada, you must have medical insurance for the entire time you are going to be in Canada.
This must be taken out before you leave your country since you must present proof of coverage at the border when applying for your work permit.
You have to be covered for the entire time you are going to be here and be careful because at the border the officer will check the expiration date of your insurance.
If you have less than the time you are supposed to be here, you can receive your work permit with a limited expiration date.
As I mentioned before, all the information I will share in this post is about the province of Ontario and how I applied to the Ontario health insurance plan by having a working holiday.
To apply for OHIP you have to meet several requirements; these are the three minimum you have to meet:
You must physically be in Ontario for 153 days in a 12-month period.
You have to physically be in Ontario for at least 153 days out of the first 183 days immediately after you start living in the province
You must make Ontario your principal residence
To make my existence easier at this step, I used an online calculator that I will leave here for you to add up the day you arrived in Ontario and the day you are reading this, so you can easily calculate.
I waited until day 183 and went to Service Ontario.
In this case, because it is a working holiday, you are eligible for this category:
You are in Ontario on a valid work permit and are working full-time in Ontario, for an Ontario employer, for at least six months
The first conclusion is that you must be in Ontario for at least 183 days and work full-time for at least six months.
Once you meet all the requirements, you must go to Service Ontario in person; this is where these applications are processed.
It depends on the location, but there are some Service Ontario where you can schedule an appointment in advance through the ontario.ca website.
I recommend you do this, so you do not have to wait in line to be seen. Just show up and mention that you have made an appointment in advance, and you'll get priority.
Things to keep in mind:
If you have a common-law partner, spouse or dependents, you can go with him/her /them and extend your OHIP immediately to him/her/them.
Aldo was an English student at the time, and we did not know he could do it until after a couple of months.
When we found out, he went with my documents (work permit and letter) plus the documents below.
He was able to apply for his own health card, and it was linked to my health card.
You must bring at least 5 documents:
1) A completed Registration for Ontario Health Insurance Coverage form.
Actually, at Service Ontario itself, they can give you this form, but if you want to go prepared, you can download it from here, fill it out at home and arrive there with it fully completed.
2) One original document proving your OHIP-eligible immigration status, in this case, is your open work permit, but in addition to the work permit, you will need...
3) A letter from your employer with the following characteristics:
The letter must be on the employer's company letterhead
The letter or contract must state that the employee is working full-time
Must state the title/occupation of the position
Must state that the employee will be working for an employer that is located in Ontario
The start date of full-time employment
Must state that the employer intends to employ the employee for a minimum of six (6) months and/or can state that the employee is permanent
be signed and dated by employer
It is important to note that the letter or contract cannot be a letter of acceptance or job offer, nor can it be a photocopy, scan, email or fax.
It does not matter if the job offer contains the same information; you need a separate letter.
4) One document (original, printed or digital/electronic, as noted on the list) proves your residency in Ontario.
In this case, you can use your tenant agreement, driver's license, Ontario photo card, utility bill, bank statement, etc.
You can see more examples of documents you can use on this official website.
5) One original document that proves your identity. These documents must include your name and signature and must be different from point 4. In this case, you can use your passport, Ontario photo card, driver's license, etc.
If all documents are in order, the Service Ontario employee will take a photo of you that day.
They will then mail the document to your home in about 4-6 weeks, but you are covered by the health care system from the day you apply, and if you need it, you can take care of it with the document they give you that day.
The OHIP will have the same expiration date as your work permit.
This application is free of charge.
As the Working Holiday is valid for a limited time, if you have a new work permit and continue with the same employer, you will have to go with the new work permit and the same initial letter from your employer.
You will have to go with the new work permit and the same initial letter from your employer to Service Ontario.
You will have your photo taken again and have to wait for the new card, which will arrive at your home in 4-6 weeks.
Your partner's health card can also be extended, but only until his or her study or work permit is valid.
Renewal is also free of charge.
Renewal due to expiration is done online.
Once you have the health card, you can go to a hospital, a walk-in clinic, and I imagine any health center. You will have to present it and you will not have to pay.
I have used it twice, and I felt very empowered :)
5. OUT OF COVERAGE
There are things that are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), for example, ophthalmologists, dentists and pharmacies.
Based on our experience, we know that some tests are not covered, such as vitamin D and ear washing.
You can go to a walk-in clinic and visit a doctor, but the other things are not covered.
I have seen here that usually, in your job, there is insurance (depending on the company), and with that, you can cover a part of that attention.
I hope this post can help you quickly gather the documentation to apply for your health card. I wish you success in completing this process.
Let me know if you have any questions regarding this topic.