Health Insurance Requirements for the F1 Visa
The F1 Visa is one of the most popular visas for international students choosing to continue their education in the USA. This article will outline the insurance requirements of the F1 visa and the most common situations you will experience as an international student, with regards to health insurance coverage.
F1 Visa Health Insurance Requirements
There are no specific insurance requirements for F visa holders set forth by the US Department of State. In most cases your school will determine what level of coverage you need, or you will need to make this determination for yourself if your school has no specific insurance requirements.
School Insurance Requirements
Since the health insurance requirements for F1 visa holders will vary depending on your university or college, coverage can be administered in a variety of ways:
- Mandatory school-sponsored group insurance plan, with no option to waive coverage
- School-sponsored insurance plan, with the option to waive
- No school-sponsored insurance plan, with the option to choose your own coverage
Mandatory Insurance Plan
If your school has chosen to implement a mandatory insurance plan, you have no option but to purchase coverage predetermined by your college or university, and in many cases the cost of the insurance is automatically added to your tuition bill. Mandatory school-sponsored insurance options like this tend to be more expensive than purchasing an individual plan, but they are known to provide more comprehensive coverage as well, including coverage for maternity, pre-existing conditions without a waiting period, mental health, wellness and preventative care.
If your school handles their insurance coverage in this way, there are a few things you should be aware of to make sure you have the full coverage you need. Firstly, check to make sure the plan will cover you while on school breaks and during Optional Practical Training (OPT). If not, then a Travel Medical plan may work well in that situation. Secondly, some mandatory school-sponsored insurance plans do not provide coverage for emergency evacuation, repatriation and some travel related benefits you might need. If this is case, you might want to consider purchasing a standalone evacuation and repatriation plan to cover those costs.
Mandatory Insurance Plan, with Waiver
Some schools will offer a mandatory insurance plan, but allow students the option to waive coverage if they can prove they’ve purchased a comparable international student health insurance plan. To help determine if an outside plan is adequate, schools create a “waiver form.” This document is usually 1-2 pages long, listing each of the benefit requirements that your own plan needs to either meet or exceed, and requires both your signature and that of the insurance company. Only once both you and the insurance company have competed the appropriate sections of the form and given it back to your school will you be removed from the school’s plan.
For those students looking to waive a school-sponsored insurance plan, be sure to check our school requirements database. Here you will be able to locate your school and determine if you can waive coverage through our popular student health plan.
No Mandatory Insurance Plan
When your school has not provided a specific insurance plan you need to purchase, or have no health insurance requirements, you have the ultimate flexibility to choose the insurance plan that best fits your needs and budget! It’s important to make sure that the insurance plan you choose provides comprehensive coverage by reviewing the exclusions, ensuring that the plan is underwritten and administered through a reputable company, and speaking to a licensed insurance agent to help address any questions you may have.
Be sure to read other articles in the Insurance Explained section to help you better understand how healthcare is regulated in the US, myths that often surround insurance, as well as general information to consider when purchasing an international student health insurance plan.
Common School Insurance Requirements
Even though each school will create its own “waiver form” to determine if an outside health insurance plan will be considered adequate to waive school-sponsored coverage, the majority of colleges and universities require the same basic benefits:
- Adequate Policy Maximum – Since this is essentially the limit that your insurance policy will pay towards your medical bills, colleges and universities often require their international students to purchase a plan with a policy maximum of at least $50,000. With this in mind, some schools will require an unlimited policy maximum, meaning there will be no set cap on your coverage.
- Relatively Low Deductible – To help keep students out of pocket costs as low as possible, schools often include a deductible limit per condition, or per policy period, as part of their waiver requirements.
- Mental Health Coverage – To help ensure students are both physically and mentally healthy, outside health insurance plans are generally required provide both in-patient and out-patient mental health care, either at a set dollar amount or a percentage per visit.
- Maternity Coverage – As a preventative measure, adequate maternity coverage is another popular health insurance waiver requirement for international students. Schools don’t generally require maternity to be covered at a specific dollar amount, and instead request a high percentage to be covered, typically at least 80% coverage in-network for pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care.
- Pre-existing Condition Coverage – Oftentimes schools will require your health insurance plan to include coverage for conditions that you may have had prior to arriving in the United States, either with or without a waiting period.
- Emergency Medical Evacuation Coverage – Evacuation coverage is required by federal law for J visa holders, making it a common benefit for schools to include in their “waiver forms.” In a nutshell, evacuation coverage will help transport you to the nearest medical facility that can provide appropriate care – either by ground or air transportation depending on your insurance plan.
- Repatriation of Remains Coverage - Also known as the Return of Mortal Remains, repatriation coverage provides financial assistance to your family in the event you were to pass away while outside of your home country. To help make this process as easy as possible, schools often require your insurance plan to include repatriation coverage to help provide the proper planning, logistics, and financial coverage for your family if such a tragedy were to occur.
After you’ve contacted your school to determine if they have a school-sponsored health insurance plan for F1 visa holders, don’t forget to ask if your dependents can be added to the plan, as well as cost and information on what the plan will and will not cover. If you do have the option to waive your school’s option, feel free to utilize our insurance comparison sheet to help you compare and contrast up to three plans, and help determine which is best for your situation. To help get you started, click the link below to learn more about our most popular plan for international students around the world, the Student Secure.