Province of British Columbia

British Columbia

By Dana Hall and Kathleen Charlebois

Posted onMay 24, 2021

Province of British Columbia

Official Language: English
Age of Majority: 19
Legal Drinking Age: 19

Getting a Health Card

Health coverage in British Columbia is called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). Sometimes MSP does not start until you have lived in the province for three months. You should get private health insurance to cover this initial three-month period. Even though you might not get MSP right away, you should still apply as soon as you get there so that there is no wait time once you become eligible.

To apply, you must have your main home in British Columbia. You also need to be in British Columbia for at least six months of the year.

  • If you are a student, you can apply for MSP as long as you are in the province for at least six months.
  • If you are on a work permit, you can apply for MSP if you are going to be in province for at least six months.
  • People on the Working Holiday Program can also apply for MSP. You will need to submit your employment contract or a letter from your employer with your application. To qualify, you must:
    • Have a visa that is valid for at least six months
    • Live in British Columbia for six months in a row
    • Work at least 18 hours a week
    • Confirm your departure date from British Columbia

To apply, you will need to fill out the application form and provide a document to prove your right to live in Canada. The list of acceptable documents is on the form. You will also need to visit an Insurance Corporation of BC office to have your photo taken. You can find your closest office here.

You can apply for MSP online or by mail. Click here for information on how to do this.

Driving information

How to get a licence: You must be at least 16 years of age to legally drive in British Columbia. There are three stages to earn your licence. First, you need to pass a multiple-choice knowledge test by answering at least 40 out of 50 questions correctly and pass a vision test. You can download or buy a driver’s handbook to help study. You can take the practice test here. If you’re under the age of 19, you’ll need parental or guardian consent to take the test.

Once you pass the knowledge and vision test, you will receive a learner’s licence (also known as an L licence). You’ll need at least one year’s worth of driving practice with a qualified supervisor before you can take your first Class 7 road test.

You can take an ICBC-approved driver training course during the L stage, which must be completed within a year.

Once you pass the Class 7 road test, you’ll receive your novice licence (or N licence). If you are a safe driver with no driving violations, prohibitions, or at-fault crashes within the first 18 months of having an N licence, you can receive six months off, which means that you can take your Class 5 licence test after 18 months instead of two years. The restrictions for an N licence can be found here.

To receive a full licence (also known as a Class 5 licence) you must take an advance road test after you’ve been a novice driver for at least 24 months, or 18 months if you’ve taken the education course mentioned above.

How to transfer a licence: If you have a licence from another country, you will need to transfer it to a BC licence. You should do this within 90 days of living in British Columbia.

In order to exchange your licence for a BC licence, you must hand in your valid licence to an ICBC driver licensing office. You must also provide proof that you have two or more years of driving experience.

If you’re exchanging a valid driver’s licence from a country with an exchange agreement, you can get a full BC licence if you can prove that you have the required amount of driving experience.

The following countries have exchange agreements with British Columbia:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • South Korea (not motorcycles)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan: If you are coming from Taiwan, you’ll be able to exchange your licence for a passenger vehicle licence only.
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

If your country isn’t on the exchange agreement list, you’ll need to pass a knowledge test as well as a Class 5 road test. You’ll need to book an appointment to take the test at an ICBC driver licensing office. The test has 50 multiple choice questions, and you must answer at least 40 correctly in order to pass.

If you don’t have or aren’t able to prove that you have at least two years’ driving experience on a full-privilege, non-learner licence, you can still get a Class 7 or Class 8 licence and go through the graduated licensing process.

For more detailed information on the application process and to see a list of documents you will need to bring to your appointment, click here.

British Columbia public school information

Mandatory education in British Columbia starts at age five. These are the different levels of education in the province:

  • Kindergarten: Age 5
  • Elementary school (Grades 1–7): Ages 6–12
  • High school (Grades 8–12): Ages 13–17

In populated areas, students will usually attend middle school from Grades 6–8.

Your child’s grade is determined by the year they are born. For instance, everyone born in the year 2015 will go into Grade 1 in 2021. That’s because they will turn six in 2021. The school year starts in early September and goes until the end of June. There is a short break at the end of December that lasts for two to three weeks. This is called winter break. School starts again in January. There is another break in March called march break. This is one week long.

Click here if you would like information on how to register your child to be homeschooled.

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