New residents of Canada and Fair PharmaCare

If you are a new resident of Canada, register for Fair PharmaCare as soon as you receive your BC Services Card. You must have Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage before you can register for Fair PharmaCare.

You may register for Fair PharmaCare online or by phone.

On this page: Verifying your income | Medical Services Plan | Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) | FAQs

Verifying your income

Your Fair PharmaCare coverage is based on your income. To get coverage, you must allow PharmaCare to check your family income with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). We verify your income when you register, and every year after.

When you register, you must provide your family net income for the relevant tax year, which is 2 years prior to the current year. Report all income, including income earned outside Canada, for that year.

Your Fair PharmaCare coverage will start immediately when we receive and process your registration, but coverage is temporary until we can verify your income.

If you did not file an income tax return in Canada for that tax year, we will send you a letter explaining that we could not verify your income. When you receive the letter, call us at the numbers provided. They will let you know what documents you can submit to verify your income. These may be a notarized affidavit or a tax return from a more recent year.

You will have a limited time (approximately 60 days) to provide HIBC with documents verifying your income. If you do not provide the documents within that time, your temporary coverage will expire, and your deductible will be set to maximum value of $10,000.

Medical Services Plan (MSP)

Before you receive coverage under most PharmaCare plans, you must already have active Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage . MSP is the public health insurance plan of B.C. and covers the costs of necessary medical services such as visits to the doctor. It is not the same as PharmaCare, which provides assistance with prescription drug costs and some medical supplies. You must register for both separately.

Registration for MSP is mandatory for B.C. residents.  MSP will assign you a Personal Health Number (PHN). New residents must apply for MSP as soon as possible. Applying immediately allows time for processing the application, so your MSP coverage may be in place after completing a wait period that consists of the balance of the month in which residence is established, plus two months.

The spouse or child of a B.C. resident who is an Applicant for Permanent Resident Status may be eligible for MSP. Also, those on a working holiday in B.C. may be eligible.

See: Coverage wait period | How to apply for MSP

Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)

If you are a recent immigrant to Canada, and have not met the residency requirement for MSP coverage, some of your prescription drug costs may be covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).This program is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It temporarily covers certain health-care benefits for eligible groups in Canada that otherwise don't have any level of health coverage, such as:

  1. Resettled refugees
  2. Protected persons in Canada
  3. Refugee claimants
  1. Victims of human trafficking
  2. Detainees

IFHP is a federal program. Please see the Government of Canada website for more information.

Frequently asked questions from new residents

Both are provincial programs that help B.C. residents with health care costs. Both are run by Health Insurance BC for the Ministry of Health. PharmaCare helps people with the cost of many prescription drugs, and some medical supplies (like insulin pumps, ostomy supplies, and some prosthetics). MSP pays for medically necessary hospital and doctor services.

MSP enrolment is mandatory for all B.C. residents. PharmaCare coverage is optional, but strongly encouraged.

No. Register for MSP immediately. The wait period to process an MSP application is three months which means you will have met the residency requirement during your wait. Once you have MSP coverage, you may register for Fair PharmaCare.

No. Residency is required for three continuous months within the province of B.C. before MSP coverage can be provided. With active MSP coverage, you can immediately register for Fair PharmaCare.

IFHP offers only temporary coverage, and it does not cover as many prescription drugs as Fair PharmaCare.

Your Fair PharmaCare coverage will be cancelled if:

  • You opt out of the Medical Services Plan
  • You are no longer a resident of B.C.

Your income-based Fair PharmaCare coverage will be cancelled if:

  • You withdraw/revoke consent for your income to be verified annually with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)
  • CRA could not verify your income

In these cases, default coverage with a $10,000 deductible is still in place.

No. Unfortunately, PharmaCare is unable to request information ad hoc from Service Canada. PharmaCare has an arrangement with the Canada Revenue Agency to verify income, with permission. This is why PharmaCare protocol uses tax information from two years before the date of registration.

No. PharmaCare understands that for new residents, the cost of obtaining a notarized affidavit can be troublesome. However, we are unable to request information on behalf of applicants. You must contact your notary directly.  

Affidavits are returned for the following reasons:

  • It was missing declared income for the registrant, the registrant's spouse, or both.
  • The affidavit was not notarized. Affidavits must be notarized with a stamp or seal.
  • The affidavit was submitted for an incorrect tax year.
  • The affidavit was faxed in. HIBC requires the original affidavit copy.


Questions about PharmaCare?

Contact us. We provide interpreter services in over 140 languages.

Related links

Fair PharmaCare information sheets are available in English, French, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Punjabi, Farsi, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino.