Every year, nearly 50,000 students come into the USA on the J1 visa and participant in high school exchange programs. That number also does not include the students who come in on the F1 visa, so the total number of international high school students could easily be double that. Then when you look at other countries, that number will rise even further as students are looking at countries such as Ireland and the UK as destinations to participate in a high school year abroad program.
For the student, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience to have a high school exchange and year abroad, opening you up to new cultures at such an early age. But there are also the risks of being underage, and how to handle that from a health and safety perspective. Luckily there are some fantastic high school agencies and organizations that run these programs and handle these issues already. However, when it comes to high school exchange health insurance, a few key things to remember:
For the USA, if you are entering on a J1 visa, you will need to meet certain levels of coverage as laid out in the regulations for that visa. In short you will need a plan that has at least $50,000 in coverage, $10,000 for medical evacuation, $7,500 for repatriation, a deductible not to exceed $500 and a policy that meets one of the valid insurance ratings. You can find more information on the J1 visa health insurance requirements through our website. For those on an F1 visa, there are actually no requirements attached to your visa, so you can choose any insurance policy that you wish. However in most cases, your school, agency or sponsoring organization will provide you with an insurance plan – you can either purchase that or buy your own individual plan like the ones we offer on our website. For other countries around the world, you should always check to see that you are meeting all your visa requirements, otherwise you could have issues with your via being approved.
Update to J1 Insurance Requirements – as of May 15th 2015, the insurance requirements for the J1 Visa will increase to $100,000 medical, $50,000 evacuation, $25,000 for repatriation. You can find all the details about the update in our blog post here.
Being abroad, and a minor in most cases, receiving the correct service and support is vital if you do become sick or injured. Your insurance plan should have 24 hour emergency assistance so that if you need to locate a doctor, or need medical help of any kind, they are just a phone call away. Language support is also very helpful, because if you are learning a new language, it may be hard to converse – so support for your mother tongue can be vital.
Should something go wrong and you are hospitalized, you will want the insurance plan to get your close family to your bedside as quickly as possible. Therefore always check that your insurance plan has an emergency reunion benefit that will provide a benefit to bring your family to your bedside. The wording on this benefit can alter from insurer to insurer, so always make sure you dig into the wording so that you understand how that benefit will work and come into play for you.
Third Party Access
In most cases when you undertake a high school exchange, you will be staying with a host family. They will act like your mother and father during your year away, and will also be there to help you with things like your insurance plan, should you become sick or injured. You should always check in advance that they can act on your behalf as in some cases, privacy laws will prevent an insurer from discussing information about a claim with anyone apart from the insured.
Th experience of spending a high school year abroad can be an amazing one, and with the right precautions you can make sure everything is covered in the event something does go wrong.