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Overview of MSP

British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) is the provincial public health care program that provides basic coverage to residents of BC and generally covers the cost of required medical services. Enrolling in MSP is one of the most important things for new residents of BC to do upon arrival. You should submit proof to BCIT once you have enrolled in MSP in order to satisfy the medical insurance requirement.

Review the content on this page and visit MSP for BC Residents for a general overview. Note that MSP is not administered by BCIT but rather by Health Insurance BC, who you may contact if you have specific questions about it.

Eligibility for MSP

All residents of BC who stay over six months – including study permit holders – are both eligible and legally required to enrol in MSP when they arrive and to maintain coverage throughout their period of residence in BC. For details, see Are you Eligible?

Generally speaking, all international students studying at BCIT are eligible and must enrol in MSP, except for:

  • Study Abroad and Exchange students coming to study at BCIT for just one term
  • students completing their studies entirely online from outside of Canada.

Dependent family members of study permit holders are are also eligible and may be included on the same MSP application.

How to apply for MSP

When you arrive in BC as a new resident, you must apply for MSP. The online application only takes a few minutes. However, note that you will have to upload a digital image of an immigration document such as a study permit in order to complete the application. We suggest to apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in BC and establish residency.

Once you submit your online application for MSP, you should immediately see an application confirmation with a reference number. You should take a screenshot of this confirmation for your records, and submit it to BCIT in order to satisfy the medical insurance requirement.

Applications typically take about one month to process. Once yours is completed, you can expect to receive some important mail from Health Insurance BC including a confirmation letter, monthly invoices, and your BC Services Card. It is critically important that you provide the correct mailing address in your application and that you notify Health Insurance BC if you move to a different address.

What is a BC Services Card?

BC Services Card example
Sample BC Services Card

A BC Services Card is a government-issued ID with your name and Personal Health Number that is generally required to use MSP benefits. Once your MSP application has been processed, your BC Services card will be mailed to you. This card will not have your photo on it, but it is possible to later request one with your photo should you wish to do so. Visit Get a BC Services Card for instructions.

You can use your BC Services Card for identification purposes throughout Canada and you should bring it with you if you need to visit a doctor or get any medical treatment. If you have a non-photo BC Services Card you may also need to show additional photo identification, such as a BCIT ID card or identification from your home country.

MSP coverage wait period

Be aware that there is a coverage wait period before new (and returning) residents are eligible to use MSP benefits. The wait period consists of the balance of the month in which residence in British Columbia is established, plus two additional calendar months. Make sure to apply for MSP as early as possible since you may NOT be eligible for MSP benefits while your application is in process, even if your waiting period is complete.

It is very important that you have temporary private medical insurance to cover you from the time you arrive in BC until you are able to be covered by MSP.

BC residents who leave the province for more than 6 months in a calendar year may need to complete another coverage wait period upon return to BC. For more information, see Leaving BC Temporarily.

Priyanka's example timeline for MSP

Priyanka arrives in BC with a study permit on August 7, 2021, at which time she becomes a resident of BC. Her MSP coverage wait period is the remainder of August plus all of September and October. She applies for MSP during her first week in BC and receives a confirmation letter 6 weeks later informing her that she will be eligible for MSP benefits starting on November 1, 2021 and that her BC Services Card will be mailed to her soon.

Priyanka has temporary private medical insurance through Guard.me for the months of August, September, and October; in case she were to need any medical treatment during that time and also to satisfy BCIT’s medical insurance requirement.

Priyanka in this case is a fictional example, but this is a very typical MSP timeline for new arrivals to BC. 

Submitting proof of MSP enrolment to BCIT

Send an email to international.medical@bcit.ca with your name, student number, and proof of having enrolled in MSP, such as one of the following:

  • a screenshot of your online application confirmation with reference number
  • a clear photo of your valid BC Services Card
  • a clear photo of an official letter from Health Insurance BC that shows your name and confirms your MSP coverage

Note that international students are required to have medical insurance coverage throughout your studies at BCIT. Failure to provide proof of MSP enrolment could result in you being blocked from registering for BCIT courses and also ineligible for any International Letter of Verification.

MSP monthly fee for international students

The MSP Health fee for international students of all ages is $75 per month. Once you are enrolled, Health Insurance BC will send invoices to you by mail and you will be responsible for submitting payment. See Question and Answers: Health fee for international students [PDF] for more information.

Renewing your MSP coverage

Typically, your MSP coverage will expire on the same date as your study permit. If you renew your study permit, you must update your status in Canada in order to renew your MSP account. You should also do this for other status updates, such as if you receive a post-graduation work permit or permanent residence in Canada.

As a special measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may request temporary MSP coverage while waiting for your new study permit application to be processed. See Medical Services Plan – British Columbia Response to COVID-19 for more information.

Managing your MSP account

You are responsible for managing your account and keeping all of you personal information up to date.

You need notify Health Insurance BC if:

  • Your basic personal information or mailing address needs to be updated or corrected
  • You need to add or remove a spouse or children
  • Your status in Canada changes (for example, if you receive a study permit extension, a post-graduation work permit, permanent resident status, or Canadian citizenship)
  • You are planning to leave BC permanently (or temporarily if you will be absent from BC for six months or more during a calendar year)

You may contact Health Insurance BC directly if necessary.