Attention international students! If you were recently accepted to an American college or university to continue your education, you’ll need to begin exploring the often overwhelming world of international student insurance. But fear not—today we’re cutting through all of the insurance mumbo jumbo and arming you with the necessary tools so you can easily find the right plan for your needs. Let’s get started!
All about student visa requirements
When you attend a US university as an international student, you’ll often be required to have student health insurance. This requirement will come from either the US Department of State or specifically from your individual institution. The insurance you have access to could depend on the type of student visa you applied for.
F-1 or F-2 visas
There is no government-mandated standard insurance for F-1 or F-2 visa holders. However, check with your institution before you travel. Some schools mandate that their international students hold insurance, while others do not. Check if you need it, and if you do, hopefully you’ll have the flexibility to go with whatever plan works best for you.
J-1 or J-2 visas
J-1 or J-2 visa holders who attend a school or educational program in the US are required by their sponsoring organization to have very specific international student insurance coverage. It must include:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
- Repatriation of remains coverage in the amount of $25,000
- Medical evacuation benefits in the amount of $50,000
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
Related: Obtaining Your Student Visa
How to choose the right international insurance plan
Before you shop forinternational student insurance, look over the requirements set by your school or visa category. You’ll need to find a plan that meets or exceeds these required benefits. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the type of coverage that’s required, you can find a plan that works for both your needs and your budget. Here’s where to start.
Make a list of your must-have coverage details
In addition to checking the details of the insurance that’s required by your visa category or school, make a list of your own must-haves. Most international student insurance policies are comprehensive, but if you need specific benefits like prescription drug coverage, maternity benefits, or coverage for pre-existing conditions, you may need to find a more specialized plan.
Check your school or sponsoring organization’s policy
Before you start shopping in earnest, check your school or sponsoring organization’s policy on insurance. Many schools require students to buy into their group insurance plan or ask for a waiver if a student obtains insurance from a third party. These details should be easily accessible on any institution’s website. Get in touch with an advisor from international student services if you have any questions about your school’s insurance policy.
Related: The Best On-Campus Resources for International Students
Start shopping for a plan
Once you know the details of what coverage you need, you can shop for a plan. Make sure to find a few you like and compare them carefully to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal. One aspect of an insurance plan many people don’t think to check is the insurance carrier’s rating. This is an indication of their overall financial stability. J-1 or J-2 visa insurance holders must have a plan 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.
This is a good indication of the quality of any insurance plan, regardless of whether you’re on a J-1 or J-2 visa or not.
Examine exclusions carefully
Before you make your purchase, check over the plan’s exclusions carefully. Just because it meets the minimum requirements for your program doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right fit for you. Check what’s included in the plan and make sure you’re aware of what’s excluded. This is just as important, since picking the wrong plan can be an extremely costly mistake.
Finalize your purchase
Once you’ve found the right plan, purchase it—and save all the documents carefully. You may need to fill out a waiver for your school or present proof of coverage to an immigration officer when you first enter the United States.
Related: Health Insurance in College: What Options Are Out There?
Shop carefully and read the fine print
Coming to the United States to study or research without health insurance is risky and could potentially cost you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. A great insurance plan offers peace of mind and covers necessary health care costs during your stay in the US. When you’re aware of your program or visa requirements and shop carefully, it’s easy to pick out a plan that works for your needs.
Have other questions about your international college search? Let us know what you’d like to read about by emailing us at email@example.com.