How to Choose Insurance for your Working Holiday Visa in Canada

Updated: October 2023.

Are you trying to figure out what insurance you need for your Working Holiday visa in Canada? Getting the right IEC health insurance is crucial, not only for your own personal protection but also to ensure your Working Holiday visa is activated upon arrival.

At Stepwest, we help working holiday travellers from all over the globe come to Canada for the experience of a lifetime. We know choosing insurance can be a confusing part of the trip planning process. That’s why it’s part of the assistance we offer. So, if you’re scratching your head on how to choose the right insurance for your working holiday, read on to learn everything you need to know about getting insurance for your working holiday in Canada, and the best travel insurance providers!

Why do I need Insurance for my Working Holiday in Canada?

You might be wondering why you need to get insurance for your working holiday. We cover this in-depth in this post on what you need to know about insurance for International Experience Canada.

When should I buy insurance for my working holiday?

We recommend buying your insurance only once you have two important details of your working holiday confirmed:

1. Once you have received your Port of Entry (POE) letter that confirms your Working Holiday permit has been approved.

2. When you have confirmed the specific dates that you will travel to Canada. This could be once you have decided on your flights, for example.

Your insurance provider will ask you for an activation date for your policy (the date you want your insurance coverage to begin). So before purchasing insurance you should first have confirmation your Working Holiday visa application was approved. And second, know when your exact arrival date to Canada will be.

Important to note: Keep in mind that it takes time to choose the right insurance provider for your working holiday in Canada. You can start researching insurance options as soon as you get your work permit application underway. That way, you have plenty of time to find the provider and policy that best fits you. Check our recommended insurance if you are travelling from Europe or UK.

If you are from Australia and want 2-year travel insurance for your Working Holiday permit in Canada, check here our recommended insurance.

What to look for when choosing health insurance for your working holiday in Canada

When you are ready to purchase your working holiday health insurance, there are a number of things you should keep in mind. Here’s a list of everything you should look for:

Are skiing, snowboarding or general outdoor activities covered?

Outdoor activities are not always covered in basic insurance plans. Many companies include coverage for sports and adventure outdoor activities as an add-on. Depending on your needs and how you want to enjoy your working holiday in Canada, you might want to include this add-on.

This is especially the case for skiing and snowboarding. Although these are very common activities in Canada, they put you at a higher risk of injury. Whether you are a complete beginner or an expert with experience in the backcountry, make sure you will be covered while enjoying the slopes.

While you are in Canada, you might want to try learning to ice skate, rock climb or go on a whitewater rafting trip in the Rockies. You may not even know yet if you will try these activities on your working holiday.

When searching for your insurance plan, it is good to ask what the coverage is for the various types of outdoor activities. Then you will know if you need to buy coverage for these activities beforehand, or if this is something you can add on at a later date once you are in Canada.

Is there a luggage policy?

A luggage policy will cover a certain amount of the value of your personal belongings. In the event your luggage is lost by your airline or stolen on your trip, your insurance provider will give you money to repurchase lost items. Hopefully, this never happens to you, and chances are it won’t. But if it does, you will be very happy to receive money to repurchase items like clothing and toiletries.

If you are coming to Canada with your ski or snowboard equipment, you should ask your provider whether these items are covered in the luggage policy as well.

Are you covered for trips outside of Canada?

While on your working holiday, you might want to take advantage of being in North America and explore other parts of this beautiful continent. Many of our Stepwest working holiday participants do this and we encourage it! Perhaps you want to visit Seattle’s famous Space Needle or bike across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. You could even go as far as the pristine beaches of Cancun, Mexico.

If you choose to leave Canada, even for just a day trip, you should make sure you still have insurance coverage. Some insurance companies will include travel outside of Canada, but don’t assume they do. If you’re travelling to the United States or Mexico, you should make sure you are covered there as well.

Is there 24/7 emergency assistance?

In the event of an emergency, you need to contact your insurance provider to ask what to do. You want to make sure this is easy for you to do from Canada. The best (and most common way) will be by phone. Check if your working holiday insurance company has 24/7 worldwide phone assistance. With the difference in time zones across the world, you don’t want to find out that you can’t reach them in the middle of the night. In an emergency, every minute counts.

Is there a deductible?

A deductible is an amount of money you must pay upfront before you can make your first claim. Plans with 100 percent coverage (and no deductible) are typically more expensive but may save you money in the long run. It’s a good idea to ask if your plan has a deductible, and on which claims. Then you won’t be surprised when you get a bill during your first claim.

How are claims handled during your time in Canada?

Every insurance company will handle insurance claims differently. The process will likely also be different for each type of claim. You may be required to pay the medical fees first yourself, then submit the bill so they can reimburse you. Or the insurance company might receive the medical bill directly so you don’t have to pay anything. Typically you pay and get reimbursed for smaller bills like doctor’s visits and prescriptions. The larger bills such as hospital visits are directly billed to your insurance company, but not always.

Make sure you know if you have to pay the medical fees yourself first. If the bill is large, you want to make sure you have the available limit on your credit card.

Does the policy include coverage for a family member’s flight?

In an emergency, does your insurance include a flight ticket for a next-of-kin to come to Canada? You might feel better if you know a family member can come to visit you if your health becomes jeopardized.

Does the insurance policy cover you for the whole duration of your permit?

The Government of Canada will request that your health insurance covers you from the first day of your arrival in Canada until the very last day of your work permit. Keep in mind, the Canadian immigration officers will issue you a work permit for the length of your health insurance policy.

We explain this in more detail in our post on Everything You Need to Know About Insurance for International Experience Canada.

I am from a country eligible for a 2-year IEC work permit duration. Not many insurance companies offer policies this long, what should I do?

It is very important to be careful here. When activating your IEC Working Holiday permit upon arrival in Canada, you must have insurance coverage for the duration of your visa. If you are eligible for a two-year visa, but you only purchased one year of insurance, you risk being given a one-year work permit. This is a risk you don’t want to take!

There are a few companies that offer 2-year travel insurance plans. These include True Traveller for UK & European citizens, Fast Cover for Australians or Best Quote for all nationalities.

Another option that is often taken is purchasing two one-year policies at the same time. Just make sure when you travel to Canada, you bring BOTH policies with you to confirm you are covered for the two years.

I’m ready to buy insurance, which one should I choose?

Receiving help with travel insurance is part of the support that Stepwest participants receive when they do a working holiday with us!

In addition, to help with buying insurance, our Canada Working Holiday programs offer personal assistance with getting a job in Canada. We take the headache out of securing a job so you can focus on planning your adventures in Canada. Doing a working holiday is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Take into consideration what the most important criteria are for you before opting for your IEC travel insurance. Remember, cheap insurance is rarely the best choice! Put your health first. Don’t let an emergency ruin your whole experience, and force you to end your trip earlier than expected. Spend the money booking a good insurance plan – one that you know will be there when you really need it.

Want to learn more?

As soon as you connect with us, we will email you to arrange a free meeting to see how we can help you plan your Canadian working holiday!