International Students studying in the USA are most typically entering on an F1 Visa, or F2 for dependents. Here are all the details you need to know about your visa, and how it relates to health insurance.
An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa given to most international students who want to study in the USA. The visa is issued by the US Department of State, after you have been accepted to study at a private elementary school, high school, college, seminary, conservatory, English language school (ESL) or an academic institution.
Once the visa is approved, students can arrive in the US up to 30 days before their classes begin, but must maintain the visa throughout their studies, and then leave the country within 60 days after their program has been completed. Students also have the option to extend their stay in the USA through a change of status, or through programs such as OPT.
International students on an F1 visa do not have any government related health insurance requirements to meet when studying in the USA. With this in mind, and because having adequate health insurance is so important, F1 visa holders and their dependents should follow the insurance guidelines set by their school.
Some institutions will require all of their international students to buy school-sponsored insurance coverage, while others will allow these students to purchase a plan of their own choosing. Regardless of the health insurance requirements that your school may have, be sure to remember that purchasing appropriate insurance is the only way to protect against unforeseen medical bills.
Since there are no federal insurance requirements for F1 visa holders, their institutions may handle health insurance for these students in a variety of ways:
Mandatory Group Health Insurance Plan: Some schools choose to implement a mandatory group health insurance plan for all of their international students, meaning you will automatically be enrolled without the option to choose your own coverage. Unfortunately these options are more expensive (with the costs automatically factored into your tuition), but tend to provide very comprehensive coverage.
Group Health Insurance Plan with the Option to Waive: Institutions that offer group health insurance plans often allow their students to waive out, assuming the student proves they have purchased comparable, alternative coverage. To help ensure you choose a plan that meets the requirements of your school, be sure to utilize our School Requirements Database.
Optional Health Insurance Plan: While never an ideal situation, some schools don’t require their international students to purchase health insurance, meaning these students can choose any plan they would like. To get you started in the right direction, take a look at the Student Secure plan. It was designed specifically for international students, offering coverage for mental health, maternity, pre-existing conditions, medical evacuation and much more. Best of all, F1 visa holders automatically qualify for coverage!
Regardless of how your school may manage insurance coverage for their international students, we are here to help you through the process and ensure you are properly covered. Be sure to contact us if you need help choosing the best plan for your situation, or if you need a waiver form completed for your college or university.