J1 Visa Insurance Requirements Change in 2015

J1 Travel to the USA

J1 Travel to the USA

The J1 Visa is probably one of the most well known visa types for students to come to the USA to work and study. Introduced in 1961, it has grown in popularity to become one of the primary ways students can participant in Work and Travel programs, Au Pair programs, Internships and all the other J1 Visa Categories. For more detailed information about the J1 visa, please visit our very comprehensive section explaining all the main details about this visa type.

Of course there are many different requirements that need to be met in order to qualify for the J1 Visa, but one of the requirements of the visa is that the participant holds an insurance policy that will cover their medical expenses during their time in the USA. Set in 1993, the requirements were as follows:

  • Medical Benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of Remains in the amount of $7,500
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • A policy underwritten by an insurance carrier with:
    • an AM Best rating of “A-” or above
    • an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above
    • a Standard and Poor’s Claims Paying Ability rating of “A-” or above
    • or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above

While to many around the world, the levels of coverage may seem adequate for a temporary visitor, the USA medical system is the most expensive in the world. $50,000 does not actually go very far if you are hospitalized, and so there have been calls to increase these limits to protect students.

On the 6th October 2014, the US Department of State issued a final rule that would make a number of changes to the way the J1 Visa program is run, and as part of that the levels of insurance coverage were changed to:

  • 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.
  • A policy underwritten by an insurance carrier with:
    • an A.M. Best rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above;
    • a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims paying Ability rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above;
    • a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of ‘‘B+’’ or above;
    • a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above;
    • a Moody’s Investor Services rating of ‘‘A3’’ or above;

The main changes are to the levels of coverage, up to $100,000 for medical benefits, up to $25,000 for repatriation of remains, up to $50,000 for medical evacuation, and the inclusion of more rating agencies. The main changes have all be highlighted in red.

Update: These new levels of coverage will come into effect on May 15th 2015, so any participants who are in the USA on a J1 Visa on this date will need to meet these new requirements. For more detailed information about the J1 Visa, please be sure to visit our visa section covering all the main aspects of the visa:


Posted by Ross Mason

Ross is the Vice President of International Student Insurance, with over 15 years experience in the international education arena. A graduate from the Nottingham Trent University in the UK with a First in BSc (Hons) Business and Technology, Ross has lived all around the world including LA, New York, Boston, London, Hong Kong, Florida and Germany.

44 thoughts on “J1 Visa Insurance Requirements Change in 2015”

Laurien says:

Hi Ross,

I am currently in the USA and will stay here until August. Does this mean my travel date is past May 15th? Or do the new J1 Visa insurance requirements only apply when you start travelling with a J1 after May the 15th? I am wondering if I should change my insurance plan.


Hi Laurien,

Thank you for your comment – the new regulations only apply to those that start their travel AFTER May 15th. So if you are already in the USA, you are fine with your current plan.

Update – we have been given guidance from the State Department now that tells us the new insurance requirements will apply to all J visa holders, regardless of when you entered the USA, so please make sure you adjust your coverage and purchase a new plan accordingly.

I hope that helps


Laurien says:

Hi Ross,

thank you for the quick reply!

Juliana Ferreira says:

Hi Ross!
My sister arrived in the USA in January and will stay until December, 2015 as a visiting scholar. She was required to get a health insurance plan for the entire period of her stay, that is, one year under the old coverage requirements. And she did it. But now the school International Office contacted her saying she needs to meet the new requirement or leave the country. So, she is really worried about it because she’s in the beginning of her research and leaving now would be a disaster.

Anyway, I have read your blog and the previous replies and I understood the changes do not affect those who arrived before May 2015. Am I right? What would you recommend my sister do to tell the office that her status is ok since she arrived in the country before the changes?


Hi Juliana – we have received further guidance from the US State Department that has informed us that they are requiring all J1 visa holders to comply with the new levels of coverage, regardless of when they entered the USA. I am sorry, but your sister will need to purchase a new insurance plan to meet the new requirements. I hope that helps!

Juliana Ferreira says:

Thanks for the information, Ross.

Miha says:

My son met this girl from Brazil . I don’t know what kind of visa she came with , she said she came to study English . She got sick and she went to the ER. She said that she goes t have insurance , but my question is is she having any minimal medical insurance that came with the visa or what can she do? Thank you !

Darlene says:

Dear Ross,
Does the definition of students include Research Scholars, Short-term scholars and Specialists in the J1 category?

Hi Darlene, the requirements are coming into effect for all J1 categories – so yes this would include scholars, etc…

Let me know if you have any other questions

Jack Croal says:

Ross – trying to get on to a camp America scheme this summer – need to arrange my own medical insurance because of existing medical condition. Finding it difficult to find a policy that is geared up for these new J1 visa conditions – especially the hike in repatriation of remains to $25,000. I am travelling on May 23rd. Any ideas on finding an insurance provider who will meet these criteria – preferably UK based/endorsed. I have tried many and the max I can get on the repatriation of remains issue is £5K. I guess there will be many of us scrabbling around for this but looks like the insurance companies have not woken up to this yet. I fear I may have to cancel as running out of time.

Hi Jack,

Most plans should cover you for repatriation, all our plans will work for you if you would like to consider those. The problem is going to be the pre-existing condition benefit you need, as the J1 visa is a short term visa and short term insurance plans do not typically cover pre-existing conditions. Our Atlas travel does not cover pre-existing conditions but does include “acute onset of a pre-existing condition” – will that work for you?


As you are coming to the USA, it is sometimes better to get a plan from that country, as working with providers if you need coverage will be easier.


Manish says:

Hi Ross,
My university expects a written statement from the insurance provider that it meets their minimum requirements for health insurance. Is this something that your company can provide ?


Hi Manish,

Yes, with our plans you can obtain a visa letter which confirms the level of coverage. You will get this automatically in your student zone once you have applied for coverage. If you need anything else, please just email us at info@internationalstudentinsurance.com and we will be happy to provide you with whatever you need.


Cassandra says:

Hi Ross,

I’ll be travelling to the USA on a J1 visa arriving before the official change date of mid May. Due to the program, I will need to cross the USA border to Canada a few times during my 4 month stay.
I understand that initially I will arrive under the older requirements, but when I leave and re-enter after May 15th will I then be required to have the ‘new’ requirements of insurance?

– Cassandra.

Hi Cassandra – we would recommend that you purchase coverage that meets the new requirements for your entire stay, so in short yes we understand that you will need to meet the new requirements in this instance.

I hope that helps

saqib ahmed says:

Hi Ross!

I am one of the internal medicine residents about to start 3rd and final year of residency. Last time I entered united states was may 18th, 2014.I have 2 kids one was born last year and one this year. Will I be required to change the insurance plan according to new changes ? It looks like i have to pay 500 dollars + for the next year. Please let me know how to negotiate this with my employer.

Thank you for your comment. In short, yes – you will need to make sure your plan will meet the new guidelines.

Let me know if you need anything else

Hawk says:

I sechared a bunch of sites and this was the best.

Dave says:

I´m confused. Why the web page of US Department of State related to J1 visa is still showing the insurance requirements set in 1993? Why there is not any warning about the changes? In addition, the University where I am enrolled gave me printed information with the 1993 requirements.

Hi Dave – the new requirements do not actually come into effect until May 15th 2015, so that could be why the State Department website has not been updated. You can however see the Federal Register entry by the Department of State that shows the new requirements:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-10-06/pdf/2014-23510.pdf (scroll to page 24 for the insurance section)

I hope that helps

Terence says:

I am traveling to US for the work exchange programme. My J1 insurance that begins May 10, 2015…is it that i cannot enter The US before that date. A friend told me that they will not allow me into the country before, is this so? Would just love to get some detailed clarity.

Hi Terence, you will want to double check with your sponsor, but typically you cannot enter the USA before your start date on your visa. I hope that helps

atmaram says:

Hi Ross
I am in USA @ california from 1 nov 2014.i have bullstrad insurance.carrier global benifits group.PPO coventry.i was sick 4 months ago and i had blood in my urin.i did see a doctor and he did some couple test and all were normal.so doctor asked me to take rest and he told me to do again checkup in 6 months n put me on diet.i got a bill of 16 k and now insurance is denying to pay saying its a pre exiating condition.i had a stone in past 6 yrs back that i did tell doctor which he put on my reports but that has nothing to do with it.what to do now.i am in problem.

Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately as we are not affiliated with this company, we cannot assist you with the particular claims. I would suggest that you contact them and ask them about their claims appeals process and how you can have your claim reviewed. Best of luck!

Renata says:

I’m soon to be a visiting scholar in US, and I have a doubt regarding the coverage for medical benefits….
My insurance certificate should provide 100,000 for illness AND 100,000 for accident, or 100,000 for ilness OR accident? Like, if I have 50,000 for illness AND 50,000 for accident, adds up 100,000 in medical benefits? Or not, no matter if it is illness or accident, it must cover 100,000?


Hi Renata,

Thanks for your comment – you will need to have individual coverage levels of $100,000 on each benefit. $50,000 on one, and $50,000 on another will not meet the requirements. I hope that helps!


Renata says:

Yes, it did help, thanks a lot!

Lorenzo says:

Hi Ross,
I’m going to start a one-month exchange in the US on J1 visa. My insurance plan covers from August 27 to September 27.
If I entered the US, say, one or two days ahead of the program onset because that makes the flight cheaper, should I extend the coverage of my present insurance plan to those one or two days, or rather stipulate another plan for those additional days only, the latter plan being less demanding as regards coverage requirements – and thus price?
Or can I even ignore all this and make do with my present plan?


Hi Lorenzo,

The best option would be to extend your current plan, so that you have one plan to cover your entire period in the USA. This will avoid any issues with conditions you develop on one plan not being covered by the other plan (known as pre-existing conditions and they are normally a policy exclusion). So, if you can extend your current plan that would be best – if not, then you can certainly purchase our Travel Health insurance plan to fill in the gaps:

I hope that helps

Zafar says:

Hi Ross,
I am from Islamabad, Pakistan.i have applied for student exchange program for Arizona State University Duration(16 weeks).It is USAID funded program.I have facing problem Hepatitis(HBsAg +ive) No virus detected by DNA test by PCR .can i eligible for this program.

Jordan says:

Hi Ross,
I need a j1 and j2 insurance for me and my wife. The problem is that my contract is from 09/02/2015 to 08/31/2016 and the system, by default, allows me to cover from 09/02/2015 to 08/30/2016. How do I get the extra day cover (08/31/2016) I need to complete the coverage for my visa period? thanks!

Jordan says:

A gentle reminder…I must say that I also need to meet all the j1 and j2 insurance requirements. Thanks again and sorry for the inconvenience.

DEEP says:

I have already J1 VISA for 2 years but i am not going t this university due to some technical problem of the university . Anyone suggest me is it possible again re-issued the visa for other country or other university.

Sumaira says:

i have applied for J1 visa for six months academic visitor,as i have applied i came to know about my four week pregnancy,now my question is would i be allowed to enter into US? as i have to avail my international scholarship in due dates?i cant delay it.
second,what insurance plan would cover my pregnancy?and would i be supposed to apply for for insurance once i would be in US or i have to get it while in my home country?


Ruth says:

I am visiting scholar at TN, and I have been pregnant for nearly three months. I wander that the international insurance covet my condition? If not, what else comment? Thanks a lot.

Leah Hammond says:

Hi Ruth,

Thank you for visiting our blog.

Unfortunately, we do not have any insurance plans that will cover maternity if you are already pregnant. However the Atlas Travel plan will offer limited benefits for complications of pregnancy:

Treatment for complications of pregnancy during the first 26 weeks of pregnancy is covered under this insurance. Complications of Pregnancy is defined as: Illnesses whose diagnoses are distinct from pregnancy, but are adversely affected by pregnancy or caused by pregnancy, and not associated with a normal pregnancy. This includes: ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, hyperemesis gravidarum, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, missed abortion and conditions of comparable severity.

To view more information about this plan, please visit the following link:

Please let us know if you have any questions or if there is anything we can assist with!

debojyoti das says:

Dear Ross,

I have a medical insurance query for J1 visa. Do I need to take out a medical insurance before the J1 visa appointment date. Alternatively can I buy a medical insurance policy once I reach US.

Good afternoon,

Yes, you do need to purchase a plan that meets the J1 visa requirements prior to your visa appointment. Our Atlas Travel Plan is a great solution and will meet your visa requirements as long as you purchase a plan with a policy maximum of $100,000 or more and a deductible of $500 or less. Here’s a link to view the plan: http://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/travel-medical-insurance/benefits.php

T. Utzinger says:

My stepson will be finishing high school in the US in early 2017 and will begin college in the fall. He is coming on an IR-2 visa, a dependent child of a permanent resident. By March 1st he will receive his green card and in April he will turn 18. Can we use the Atlas Travel Plan to cover him until he enters university? At that time we will either continue the plan (if possible) or put him on a plan with the University that he attends. His mother and I are not in the USA at this time so he cannot be on our policy. Thanks for any advice you can give us.

Leah Hammond says:

Good morning,

Thank you for visiting our blog!

In order to be eligible for the Atlas Travel Medical plan, your stepson must be traveling outside of his home country and not be a permanent resident of the United States. However, once he receives his green card, he would no longer be eligible for coverage under this plan. You can purchase this plan now to cover him until he receives his green card, but once he receives it, he will need to purchase a different plan. We do also offer a plan called our Short Term Medical plan, that offers coverage for US citizens, permanent residents, and green card holders in the United States. I have sent an email to your personal email address with more information on this plan.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can assist with!

Louise says:

Hello Ross,

I’m currently enrolled in a LLM program in the US (Delaware).
Do you know if the University can oblige me to enroll in their own health insurance? Because I have found a french insurance (where I come from) which complies with every requirement you wrote.
Can they do that? Do I have the obligation to choose their insurance?
Thank you for your answer it would be very helpful.


Hello Louise,

Thanks for your blog comment. Your questions, however, are better directed to your school. Some schools will have mandatory plans and some won’t. You can probably contact your international student office or your student health center with your questions and they’ll be able to help you.

Have a great day!

joaquin quintans says:

Hi Ross, my daughter has a J1 visa with insurance. in a game basket high school she
had an injury in her meniscus and need surgery but insurance company denies the surgery and offers pay tickets flight to my origin country.
how is that possible?
what can I do?
thank you so much.

Hi Joaquin,

Thank you for your enquiry.

Depending on the type of insurance plan, they will offer to fly the participant home instead of paying for treatment in the USA. There are a few reasons why an insurance company might do this, in many cases the participant would want to go home and have surgery, rather than having this extensive surgery in a foreign country. Many will prefer to be with family and friends who will be there to support in their recovery. There is also the cost factor, surgeries such as these are very expensive in the USA – often costing upwards of $50,000 or more.

I would suggest checking your insurance plan certificate, as the wording is mostly likely present there that they will fly home instead of paying for surgery (if that option is available). They would also not be able to fly anyone home without a “fit to fly” certificate from the attending doctor, stating your daughter was fit to fly home. I would suggest you check these two things – but there might not be much you can do.

I hope that helps

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