Applying for an elective in Canada

So you want to go to Canada. This is a great choice for an elective that will impact your practice for the rest of your career. With a public health care system, all citizens of the country can access free services that are funded and administered by the 13 provinces and territories. For other services such as prescriptions and dental care, many have coverage options although around two-thirds of the population choose to have added private insurance too. Their government spend around 10% of their GDP on healthcare and therefore are a leading system to study and benefit from as a visiting student.  

Applying for your elective can be a scary or confusing time. Canada has a very specific process for placement applications that applies to both internal and external students. Here is everything you need to know before you begin your application, and to help you decide if Canada is the right location for you.


The first thing to know about an elective application to a Canadian institution is that you have to apply through the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC). They are the centralised institution of medicine in the country, leading innovation in medical education and health research. With 17 faculties of medicine in their team, they are responsible for all the training and research that occurs in the country.  

Applying through their student portal actually makes planning an elective all the easier. Once you have registered with their facilities, you can upload all the necessary information and supporting documentation to then apply for a placement. Once complete, you simply press send and await a response from the particular institution. Obviously, there is a lot of work to do, but there is plenty of information and help available on their website should you need it.  

Find out more about AFMC and the elective application process here.

Covid Considerations

As is to be expected in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical institutions are still working towards a sense of normalcy. This has affected electives across the globe and there continues to be extra considerations you must appreciate as you plan an elective abroad.  

A decision by the AFMC in March 2022 stated that at this time they will not be offering international electives to the class of 2023. This includes no virtual electives, virtual research electives, or observer-ships.

But fear not! Things are changing rapidly and, depending on when your elective module is planned for, this may not stop you from applying for a Canadian placement. The AFMC committee are constantly monitoring the situation and will make announcements as and when there is change.  

For example, starting from September 2022, the University of Toronto will begin the process to receive applications for electives, with placements beginning in January 2023. There are strict limitations within this process, particularly for international candidates, and we recommend being proactive and getting your research and applications completed quickly. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities for electives at different Canadian institutions in the coming months so watch this space.


Unsurprisingly, there will be a few costs to consider before you apply to Canada for your elective. Depending on which institution you choose to apply to, these fees will vary. You will be expected to pay an application fee and then an acceptance fee should you be successful. The cost for each of these ranges from $50 to $700 so make sure to take that into consideration before you apply. Some placements will also ask you to pay a malpractice or educational fee. All of these amounts can be found on the AFMC website here.

We offer an extensive range of resources to help you fund and budget for your elective. Wherever you plan on going for your placement, we recommend taking a look at our guides and tips to make the process less stressful.  

In the end, applying to Canada can be a worthwhile and life change opportunity. There are still plenty of tasks to complete prior to application and you must research first to find out if a placement there is viable. It is also worth considering a non-clinical elective or placement at a charity, advocacy group, or similar. These can help you learn so much, not just about medical practices, but community projects and how they benefit health systems. Take a look at our database for more inspiration on non-clinical opportunities in Canada and beyond.    

Remember, we are always here should you have any queries or problems.  

Good luck!