Refugee Care

Trauma informed practice

If a refugee is urgently unwell upon arrival, take them to the nearest Emergency Department. Present any health insurance at the registration desk.

Health Insurance

The following health insurance is available to privately sponsored refugees (PSRs):

  • Medical Service Plan (MSP): Typically takes three months from application to become active
  • Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP): Effective within days of application, for one year

Registering with MSP

Enrolment is not automatic. Upon arrival, refugees will need assistance with MSP registration. Complete the online registration form (printable PDF available) and send it to Health Insurance BC with copies of each individual’s immigration documents.

Call HIBC at 1-800-663-7100 and ask for an enrolment specialist with any questions.

Registering with Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)

In Canada, the IFHP provides limited, temporary coverage of health-care benefits to people in the following groups who aren’t eligible for provincial or territorial health insurance:

  • Protected persons, including resettled refugees
  • Refugee claimants
  • Certain other groups

Resettled refugees should receive their IFH papers upon entry into Canada. If newcomers are not Syrian or do not have an IFH certificate, apply for IFH online and mail the application to the BC CIC office.

What does IFHP cover?

If you were already chosen to resettle in Canada as a refugee, the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) will cover some of your pre-departure medical services. This includes:

  • Immigration medical exams and follow-up treatment of health conditions that would make someone inadmissible to Canada under paragraph 38(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; 
  • Vaccinations; 
  • Medical support needed for safe travel; and
  • Certain health measures during a disease outbreak.

Finding a Family Doctor and Dentist

If you are interested in a family doctor or nurse practitioner and live in a participating Primary Care Network community, register for the Health Connect Registry and get matched with a family doctor or nurse practitioner in your community.

Some Divisions of Family practice on Vancouver Island are maintaining a list of family doctors in different communities that accept IFH insurance.

The Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society  is also running a health clinic that may be able to accept refugee patients. Please contact them for more information.

If your family doctor is willing to take refugees, but isn’t registered with IFH, they can register here (printable PDF available). For more information, call Medavie Blue Cross at 1-888-614-1880.

The Interim Federal Health Program maintains a list of dentists that have registered with IFH insurance. For more information, visit BC Dental Association.

Communication Assistance during Medical Visits for non-English Speaking Refugees

Island Health sites have access to phone interpreters through the Provincial Language Service at 1-888-603-5087. With notice, the following settlement organizations can sometimes provide an interpreter to accompany the patient to medical visits: 

Additional Tests, Vaccinations and Prescriptions

Coverage Information

The benefits covered by the IFHP have certain limits including maximum dollar amounts. For more information, please consult the IFHP benefit grids:

Labs and X-rays

Island Health outpatient labs and x-ray departments accept IFHP. Always show IFHP papers and MSP if available when accessing services. A government-issued photo ID (such as the single-journey travel document issued by the Canadian government) may also be required.

If the refugee patient is asked for money by the lab/x-ray/pharmacy even though she has IFH coverage, do not pay. Even if this is an error, it is extremely difficult to be reimbursed.  Show the provider the IFH certificate, ID if required and MSP card if available. Ensure the provider is registered with IFH. Tell the provider to call the patient’s family physician to clarify coverage. 


Coordinate with a family doctor or directly contact your local Public Health Unit to set up an appointment to have vaccinations reviewed and offered for the whole family.

Read about vaccine requirements for children and youth accessing schools.

Checklist for Sponsors

To ensure successful integration into the healthcare system, please review the list below and verify that all items have been completed. 

On the First Day:

❏ Provide access to healthcare for urgent medical needs 
❏ Provide information on emergency services 911, nearest hospital 

Within First 2 Weeks:  

❏ Set up medical appointment with community family doctor for each family member
❏ Set up vaccination appointment - either with family doctor or local public health office
❏ Register for Interim Federal Health Insurance (IFH) 
❏ Register for MSP 

Before the End of the First Year:

❏ Set up optometrist or dental appointments if necessary (within first 6 months) 
❏ Apply for Pharmacare just before the one year mark 
❏ Apply for Low Income Cut Off (LICO) Dental Insurance in B.C.

Support to Quit Smoking

QuitNow offers toll-free telephone support by calling 1-877-455-2233. For translation services, the caller should say ”Arabic” at the beginning of the call, and an Arabic translator will be requested. There may be a short delay for the translator to come on the line. Online chat support is also available at This service is currently only available in English.

Learn more: HealthLinkBC - Smoking Cessation (Arabic) 


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