Except for Cuba, few nations require Canadian citizen passport holders to show proof of travel insurance for short visits. This is especially true of Europe. But if you’re a non-citizen travelling to Europe, and your passport has been issued by another country, you may fall under “Schengen” rules. If so, you might need to do some homework.
What’s a Schengen country?
In 1985, seven European countries signed an agreement in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, to end border controls and simplify travel between each other. Today, 25 European countries (not including the UK and Ireland) are signatories. They are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. (Note: The Schengen Area and the European Union are different and distinct entities, although they sometimes overlap.)
Citizens of Canada, the US, the UK, and about 30 other nations (see the list below) can travel for tourism or business purposes to any or all of the Schengen countries without visas if they stay no longer than 90 days within a six-month period. But non-citizens, who hold passports of other countries not on the list, may require Schengen visas, and to get one they will need to prove they have at least 30,000 euros worth of health insurance. This is a requirement for Canadian residents who hold Permanent Resident Cards, or who are otherwise known as landed immigrants.
If you do require a Schengen visa, take comfort in knowing that one visa will be sufficient for travel throughout the entire Schengen area—no matter how many countries you plan on visiting. Usually you will apply to the country of initial entry, or to the one in which you will be staying for most of the time.
Other, more stringent rules apply if you are going to a Schengen country to work, or as a student, or to retire, or if you will be staying longer than 90 days. In that case too, proof of adequate health insurance will be mandatory. And proof of your provincial health insurance just won’t do. You will need proof that your insurance will cover you in your host country.
Fortunately, virtually all Canadian private travel insurance plans offer emergency medical benefits that far exceed the Schengen requirements, and these plans are available to all Canadian residents who legally qualify for provincial health insurance, whether they are citizens or not, and regardless of the passport they hold.
To keep up to date on Schengen requirements, refer to the US State Department’s fact sheet.
Citizens (i.e., passport holders) of the following countries do not require visas to visit Schengen countries—all others do:
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Hong Kong, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, St. Kitts & Nevis, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.