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Health insurance for international students

interstride logo by Interstride
June 19, 2021

Students often wonder if they are getting a good deal on the insurance package that they choose. The complex language used on forms related to health insurance for international students can often be a bit confusing.

Thankfully, universities often work with specific health insurance companies to help curb the difficulties that come with selecting a health plan in another country. These firms have access to tailor-made plans that are built with student needs in mind. There are times, however, when students need to find a health insurance policy on their own. In either case, knowing what to consider before making a final choice can be helpful.

Read on to learn how to choose the best health insurance for international students.

Factors affecting health insurance for international students

Finding the perfect health insurance means striking a balance between several factors. It can be a little tricky at first to find a health insurance policy that checks all of the necessary boxes. However, it is not as complicated as it seems at first. By taking some key elements into consideration while searching, it is possible to narrow the choices down considerably.


The type of visa that an international student has is a key factor. Some US visas have a health insurance requirement and others do not. F-1 visa holders, for example, are not required by the US government to maintain health insurance. In contrast, J-1 holders must have an active healthcare plan while living in the United States.

H-1B visa holders also have to get a health insurance plan. Health insurance may come from an employer or be supplied by the visa holder, but it is important to note the length of time that it takes to be considered a long-term visitor. H-1B holders are considered short-term visitors until they reach the 6-month mark, at which point they become eligible for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. During the preliminary phase of the H-1B, a private health insurance plan is needed.


Another common consideration is how health insurance requirements change when making transitions in life. If you are a current student looking to apply for an H-1B visa or Green Card, you may need to change your policy from the one provided by your school.

It is also possible that F-1 visa holders who wish to stay and work in the US after graduation will apply for Optional Practical Training, also known as OPT. If granted permission to stay in the US and work, obtaining health insurance will be a necessary step in that process.

There are many types of transitions that international student may go through. Making sure that health insurance issues don’t crop up can be helpful.


Many schools will require international students to have health insurance regardless of visa type. In fact, most universities expect their international student body to have some form of health insurance. Some schools are very specific in what they require, as well as deciding on which insurance companies and policies their students must adhere to.

Checking with student advisors before looking for health insurance independently is crucial. All international students should be aware of the rules that affect their health insurance situation. If maintaining insurance means keeping a scholarship, a student visa, or a place in an educational institution, then understanding how it works is an essential part of life as a student.

Cost and Coverage

Not all health insurance policies are the same. So, figuring out the cost and coverage is the next step. Health insurance companies usually offer several tiers of coverage to international students. Each tier provides additional features and coverage. With greater coverage comes an additional cost, however. So, it is always wise to carefully consider what the insurance policy can offer and what your needs are.

Examples of additional features to expect include travel insurance, passport insurance, lower copays, greater options for doctors and medical centers, eye checkups and glasses, dentistry, and more.


While comparing plans, checking for service limitations should also be on the to-do list. Health insurance plans in the US always have a few limitations so making sure that an insurance plan that you are interested in isn’t lacking in a specific area of need is a good idea.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Can I use my international student health insurance in my home country when I visit home?
  • Is maternity covered?
  • How much will I pay when I go to the doctor or hospital (deductible)?
  • What happens if I get into a car accident?

Health insurance for international students

Below are some of the best health insurance plans for international students. Each one of the health insurance companies listed below ranks highly in quality of service, good coverage, and fair policy rates. In addition, many of the plans presented here are intentionally structured to match well with school and visa requirements. In addition, these same insurance providers have packages that work for recent grads and any international students who may be entering the workforce for the first time.

Final thoughts

Remember that before you choose a health insurance plan, it is always good to check with your school international student office, your visa requirements, and any other factor that might impact your decision.

Depending on your situation, you may need specific things from a health insurance plan. In fact, you might not even need to go through the process of getting one yourself. Employers, exchange programs, and schools may provide you with viable options.