Is health insurance mandatory for international students in the US? 

Is health insurance mandatory for international students in the US 

Is health insurance mandatory for international students in the US? 

Studying in the US is one of the best feelings in the world. However, pursuing education in the US comes with many challenges, such as expensive lifestyles and medical bills. This is where health insurance comes into the picture. Before applying or enrolling in a US institution or university or a training program, international students must think about their insurance plans. Many US universities mandate health insurance for their students before enrolling in their classes. 

Health insurance policies and costs can vary between campuses. Some institutions offer plans in which students must enroll, while some have waiver options allowing students to buy a plan from outside. Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Requirements may depend on the visa category. 
  • The US does not have universal health care. 
  • Some universities offer health insurance plans to international students. 
  • Lack of insurance may affect studies. 

Health insurance for exchange visitors 

International students coming to the US on J1 visas must carry health insurance that meets the US State Department. The insurance rules differ for visitors and international students coming to the US on J1 visas. Visitors coming to the US for leisure, business, or visiting family may or may not carry health insurance, while it is mandatory for J1 students to have a health insurance plan that meets the State Department’s guidelines. 

The following are the State Department’s requirements: 

  • $100,000 medical benefits per accident or illness. 
  • $25,000 for repatriation of remains.  
  • $50,000 for medical evacuation of the visitor to their home country. 
  • $500 maximum deductible allowed per illness or injury. 
  • Plan to be underwritten by an insurance corporation with an A.M. Best rating of “A-” or above, or an Insurance Solvency International Ltd. (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above, or a Standard and Poor’s Claims Paying Ability rating of “A-” or above, or a Weiss Research Inc. rating of B+ or above. 

Health insurance for F and M visas 

Students with F or M visas entering the US do not have to meet any insurance requirements set by the US State Department, but they must meet the insurance requirement of their college or university. In most cases, the institution decides the level of coverage a student must have to enroll in classes. If you are on an F1 or M1 visa, you must find out if your school has a mandatory school-sponsored group program. If the school-sponsored program is not compulsory, you can choose the option to waive and select an insurance program outside. If the school does not provide health insurance, you can buy insurance from a private company.  

 Health insurance for OPT (Optional Practical Training) students 

OPT student insurance is designed for full-time international students on F1 visas who wish to work in their field temporarily. After the university program is completed, not all institutions will allow students to stay on their insurance plans. However, students can buy OPT student health insurance when they are authorized for OPT training and have an extension to stay. 

F1 students can be eligible to take part in OPT in two ways: a) they can apply for pre-completion OPT after they have been lawfully enrolled in an institution certified by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Exchange Visitor Program for a full academic year, and b) they can apply for post-completion OPT after completing their sessions. In addition, they can work part-time (20 hours a week) or full-time if they get authorization. 

How to get health insurance for international students in the US? 

Here are a few steps that you can follow: 

  1. Check if your US school/university/college implements a mandatory group health insurance plan. If they do, you will need to ask them if the premium is included in the bills or if you need to pay them additionally, and then proceed with completing the payments. 
  1. If they have a mandatory group health insurance plan with an optional waiver, check if you are comfortable with the benefit level on the waiver.  If it does not, ask them to send you a waiver form so that you can buy a plan from outside. The Waiver form will state the minimum insurance requirements, typically lower than the group health insurance provided by the school. 
  1. Check for companies like us, NRIOL offering health insurance for international students in the US.  


International students may mistakenly believe that health insurance is the same as in their home country. But the healthcare system in the US is complicated and often works differently than in other countries. While in many countries, the government covers the cost of health care for its citizens, in the US, students and their families handle these costs. 

Many universities require students to have insurance. It is best to check with your institution before applying for specific insurance requirements to ensure you can register and begin classes on time. Health insurance can be purchased through an outside agent, but that plan must meet the school’s requirements. 

Concisely, it becomes mandatory for international students to buy a health insurance plan before entering the country or before enrolling for classes. For more concerns and queries, feel free to contact us.