Health & Social Wellbeing

This section details with some of the health and social wellbeing considerations that Canadian expats may have when living overseas.


In Canada, health care is the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments. In essence, the system is comprised of 13 provincial and territorial health care plans, which provide services directly to the consumer. The Government of Canada ensures that all Canadians receive similar standard of health coverage regardless of the province or territory they live in under the Canada Health Act.

Most countries have some type of health care system, which provides for basic needs. However, the standards may be very different to what is available in Canada. In many cases expatriates resort to private health care in order to receive more sophisticated and modern medical treatment.

If you are a Canadian relocating to another country, you may want to consider replacement health insurance. It is important that you select your policy carefully; you will likely need full replacement insurance rather that supplemental insurance. Make sure that it will cover your needs and the needs of your family and is applicable to the country of relocation. In addition, it should also cover your needs if you return to Canada. Most of the provincial and territorial health care plans have a waiting period, typically 90 days before you qualify for coverage.

You will also need to insure that you have proper immunizations for the country you are relocating to. Consult your family doctor or the Public Health Agency of Canada for advice. You will also find vital information about healthcare and immunization requirements in our expat relocation guide for the country of your choice.


Education is an area that will require careful planning if you are relocating for the purpose of continuing education or have school age children and plan to return to Canada at some point in the future.

Education, like health care, falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments in Canada and as such, can vary greatly. If you have children, who will be attending elementary or secondary schools but plan to return to Canada for advanced education you should consult the Department of Education of the province or territory the institution is located in. Admission is at the discretion of the university or college and a foreign school certificate may not be recognized.

Similarly, if you or members of your family are obtaining foreign credentials these may not be recognized in Canada either. As a rule, professional credentials in such fields as medicine or law are subject to provincial/territorial licensing or regulatory bodies. For non-regulated professions, recognition of foreign credentials may be subject to the employer’s acceptance.

For further information on education and credentials, contact the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.

Social Wellbeing

The two cornerstone of the Canada’s social safety net for senior citizens are the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and the Old Age Security Act (OAS). These two programs are designed to insure that all Canadians can at some point retire with a guaranteed source of income.

The Canadian Pension Plan is a contributor-based plan where employers and employees both contribute to the plan. Old Age Security is not contributor based, but is funded out of the general revenues of the Government of Canada.

If you are relocating to a country which has a social security agreement with Canada you may still contribute to your CPP account or receive credit for amounts you may have contributed to a local national pension plan.

For Old Age Security, you must have been resident in Canada for at least 10 years after the age of 18. You normally need to have been resident in Canada for 20 years after the age of 18 to receive OAS, however if you have lived in a country with which Canada has a social security agreement, Canada may consider that time as period of residence in Canada.

Canada has Social Security Agreements with more than 50 nations to help co-ordinate pension programs. For more information, contact Service Canada.

If you qualify for these programs, you can arrange to have these benefits paid to you regardless of where you live. For more information on both the Canadian Pension Plan and Old Age Security, please see Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Canada is also a leading member of two unique organizations. The Commonwealth (formally the British Commonwealth of Nations) and the Oganisation internationale de la Francophonie (Francophonie). Although the political significance of these organizations has waned in recent years, they have strong social, cultural and sentimental value for many Canadians.

If you are relocating as a Canadian citizen, you should register yourself and your family with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. As a Canadian citizen, you are entitled to consular services and aid and assistance in an emergency regardless of the amount of time you are abroad. This will also allow friends and family in Canada to contact you should the need arise. You can register online at or at any Canadian Government Office abroad.

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