Is Health Insurance Required for International Students?

For international students who have chosen to study in the United States, having all of the necessary documentation in place prior to arriving in the country is essential. This includes securing a visa, which, for most students is the F1 Visa.

The F1 Visa Explained

international student health insuranceA non-immigrant Visa, the F1 Visa is issued by the US Department of State to most international students who would like to further their education in the USA. This Visa is issued after a student is accepted by a private elementary school, high school, seminary, college, conservatory, English language school, or any other private institution of education.

Once a student has been issued an F1 Visa, he or she can enter the United States 30 days prior to the start of their studies. The student is required to maintain his or her Visa during the duration of studies, and must exit the country within 60 days after their studies have ended.

Is Health Insurance Required for the F1 Visa?

While international students who are studying in the United States on an F1 Visa do have to maintain the status of the Visa, they are not required to meet any health insurance requirements. With that said, carrying health insurance is important for any in the United States, including international students who are studying in the country on an F1 Visa. While students are not legally required to carry health insurance coverage, it is recommended that they follow the health insurance guidelines that have been set forth by the academic institution where they are studying.

Health Insurance Requirements of Academic Institutions

Though the federal government does not require international students who are studying in the US on an F1 Visa to carry health insurance to meet the requirements of their Visa, they may be required to carry health insurance by the schools where they are studying.

At some institutions, international students are required to purchase health insurance coverage through the school; however, at other schools, international students are permitted to purchase a health insurance plan of their own choice. Whatever the health insurance requirements of the institution maybe, it’s important for international students who are studying in the US on any Visa to invest in insurance coverage. Purchasing a health insurance policy is the only way that students can safeguard themselves from any unexpected medical expenses that may arise while they are studying in the United States.

Health Insurance Options for International Students

There are a number of ways that international students who are studying in the US can purchase health insurance. Again, the method in which they secure coverage depends on the requirements of the school that they are attending. Some of the options for coverage include:

  • Mandatory Coverage from a Group Health Insurance Plan. Some academic institutions require international students to purchase a group health insurance plan. In schools that require this type of coverage, international students will automatically be enrolled in the group health insurance plan that the academic institution offers. In other words, students do not have the ability to choose their own health insurance plan. The costs for mandatory group health insurance plans tend to be high and they are factored into the cost of the tuition, but the coverage is typically more comprehensive than other options.
  • Group Health Insurance with the Option to Waive Coverage. At some academic institutions, group health insurance is offered for international students, but students are given the option to waive the coverage, as long as they have proof that they have secured alternative health insurance coverage that is comparable to the insurance plan provided by the school. If this is an option, students are advised to check with the health insurance requirements that are set forth by their school to ensure that they are choosing an alternative plan that will meet those requirements.
  • Optional Health Insurance Coverage. Lastly, some academic institutions do not have any health insurance requirements for international students. At these schools, students are able to select any health insurance plan that they see fit. This situation is not ideal, as it does not ensure that students have adequate coverage. For international students who are attending schools that do not require a specific type of coverage, it is recommended that they check with choose the most comprehensive plan possible to ensure that they are adequately covered. There are several insurance providers that offer plans that are specifically designed for international students who are studying in the United States on an F1 Visa.

However an academic institution handles health insurance coverage for international students, it’s important that you ensure you are covered by a plan that offers adequate coverage. If you aren’t sure what health insurance requirements for international students are, speak to the school you are enrolled in and a reputable insurance agency to find out what options are available to you.

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