First few days

Last updated: July 3, 2024

Topics on this page

The “View in other languages” tool at the bottom of the page will show this information in many languages.

Find help when you arrive

Learn as much as you can about the entry point before you arrive. Find maps and get information by searching online. Learn more about arriving in Canada by land, air or sea..
Most newcomers arrive in British Columbia through the Vancouver International Airport (YVR). If you do, look for the Community Airport Newcomers Network (CANN) in the Immigration and Customs area. Friendly staff offer help in more than 20 languages. Please note that as of March 31, 2024, CANN is no longer funded to provide services to Ukrainian arrivals under a CUAET visa. 

Settlement agencies offer a variety of services to help new immigrants settle in B.C. These services include assistance in finding a place to live, referral to language classes, and short-term crisis counselling. Settlement agencies may be able to help you understand what you need to do when you first arrive in B.C.

Get your B.C. identification

Once you arrive in British Columbia, you will need to get identification.
Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number issued by the Government of Canada.
You will need a SIN to work in Canada. You also need a SIN to use government programs and benefits. Contact the Government of Canada to learn how to apply for your SIN and what documents you will need to apply.
BC Services Card is issued by the Province of British Columbia. You need it to get provincial services, including health care. See the B.C. Services card section below for more information. 
A B.C. driver’s licence is issued by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. You must have a valid driver’s licence to drive in B.C. See the Driving in B.C. section for more information. 

Back to top


B.C. Medical Services Plan (MSP) & medical insurance

The Government of B.C. health plan is called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). It pays for basic, medically required health services. These include some doctor visits, medical tests, and treatments.

Not all health costs are covered by MSP. For example, you have to pay for dentists, optometrists, and physiotherapists yourself.
MSP is for:
  • B.C. residents who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents
  • B.C. residents who are government-assisted refugees
  • international students with study permits
  • some people with work permits for 6 months or more
Find out if you are eligible for MSP.

Registering for MSP

All residents of B.C. must be registered with MSP. You need to apply to register for MSP. On your application, make sure you write your name exactly as it appears on other official documents. You should register for MSP as soon as you arrive in B.C. You may have to wait for up to 3 months for your application to be processed.

If you do not have MSP, you should buy private medical insurance. If you need medical care in B.C. and you do not have MSP or private medical insurance, you will have to pay all medical costs yourself. These costs can be very high.

Contact Health Insurance BC for more information and to register for MSP. Toll-free: 1 800 663-7100

Supplementary benefits

If your income is low, you may be eligible for Supplementary Benefits. MSP Supplementary Benefits will pay part of some medical services. See the MSP page for more information on what is covered, who is eligible, and how to apply.

International student health fee

International students must pay a monthly health care fee. This fee is for:
  • international students in kindergarten to Grade 12
  • international post-secondary students with study permits who are enrolled in MSP

Get your BC Services Card

You will need a BC Services Card to access health care services. Follow these steps to get your BC Services Card.
1. Apply for MSP. 2. Visit an ICBC driver licensing office. After you apply, you will receive a letter in the mail. Take the letter to an ICBC driver licensing office. You will also need to take 2 pieces of identification. Children under 19, people 75 and older, and people with study and work permits do not have to visit an ICBC office. You will receive a BC Services Card without a photo.

A BC Services Card with a photo is more secure. If your card is stolen, no one else can use it.

The Interim Federal Health Program – Refugees and Refugee claimants

The Interim Federal Health Program provides limited, temporary health coverage for resettled refugees, protected persons, and refugee claimants and their dependents.

The program covers people who are not eligible for provincial or private health coverage. It includes basic health-care services such as visiting the doctor, going to the hospital, emergency medicine, and emergency dental (teeth) and eye care.
People qualified for the Interim Federal Health Program must visit registered health care providers. See a list of health care providers registered with the program.

Private insurance

MSP does not cover all medical costs. For example, MSP does not cover dental care. If you want coverage for more medical costs, you can buy insurance from a private company.
Some of the services not covered by MSP will have to be paid for by you when you arrive for your visit. Ask for the receipt and send it to your insurance company. They will pay you back some or all of the money you paid. Other offices will send the bill directly to your insurance company. This is called “direct billing.” Ask questions and make sure you understand how the bill will be paid.

Out-of-province coverage

If you visit another province in Canada, you may want to buy extra health insurance. Check with Health Insurance BC to see if you will need extra coverage.