Visa Status and Coverage

When implementing a health insurance policy for international students, visa type should be largely irrelevant. Not only do most visas not require health insurance at all, but the State Department insurance requirements for the J visas are so limited that they should be seen as a baseline only, as adequate plans will all easily exceed these requirements.

Instead of visa status, the focus should be on factors that impact the type and level of insurance that your student population needs, like their duration in the States and family dynamic.

The duration that an international student will be in the United States is extremely relevant when deciding their best insurance options. Take this into consideration: inbound scholars on a 3-month program likely won’t require any medical attention at all, but a traditional international student in the US for a few years is likely to visit the doctor for at least the common flu.
Family Dynamic
An international student’s family situation is also a key factor to keep in mind when choosing coverage. Students\ with spouses or children are far more likely to take their family to a doctor and will require different benefits than a traditional student. Maternity for spouses and wellness care for children are both factors to take into consideration, neither of which are traditionally available on a short term plan, but could always be included in a group insurance option.

F/M/Q Visa Category

Surprisingly, the F, Q and M visa categories do not require proof of health insurance coverage to obtain a student visa – instead, it is left to the school to determine what insurance requirements (if any) these international students will need to meet. Further details will be provided in the Administering Insurance Plans section, but as a general overview, schools typically handle insurance coverage in one of the following ways:

Mandatory Group Plan
All students are required to purchase the school’s insurance plan with no exceptions.
Mandatory with Waiver
All students are required to purchase the school’s insurance plan, but are allowed to purchase their own coverage as long as it meets certain requirements.
Standard Minimum
Students are allowed to purchase their own coverage that meets certain requirements.
Inform students about insurance coverage, but do not require students to show proof of health insurance.

J Visa Category

The US Department of State requires international students (and their dependents) in the J visa category to purchase insurance coverage that meets a list of requirements, and to maintain that policy for the full duration of their J program. During the initial appointment at their local Embassy, these students will need to provide proof of insurance before their visa is granted.

Below is an outline of the main requirements:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000;
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of exchange visitors to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000;
  • Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness; and
  • A- or better rated carrier.

Please see Appendix B for the full list of requirements as detailed in the State Department Regulations.

Since all students should have coverage that exceeds these guidelines, and other factors are more important than visa status when selecting coverage, we do not need more analysis or explanation of J visa requirements for purposes of this best practices guide. However, we have several other resources that delve more deeply into the J visa insurance requirements, including the impact of the ACA on various J visa categories, which can be found in Appendix C.