Health Insurance

Health Insurance Options for Visa Holders and Non-Citizens in the U.S.

Girisha Bharadwaj
Girisha Bharadwaj13 Sep 2022

Non-citizens and visa holders can explore insurance plans ranging from COBRA coverage and employer-sponsored or alternate health coverage like Mira. Many visa holders often have spouses and other dependents to seek coverage for and these options allow for them to be added to their plans.

Health Insurance Options To Explore

Here are a few ways for a non-immigrant visa-holder to get health coverage while they are in the U.S.

Employer-Sponsored Health Plans 

It might be worth exploring health insurance options that your employer may offer visa holders. Most companies in the U.S. provide health benefits to their full-time employees. If you are a non-citizen worker in the U.S., you might possess an H1 visa. For H1 visa holders, employer-sponsored insurance plans also cover their spouse, children, and other dependents. 

Student Health Insurance Plans 

International students may enter the U.S. with either a J1 or F1 visa. Each of these visa categories has different requirements when it comes to health insurance coverage. J1 visa holders are legally required to have health insurance coverage during their stay in the U.S. F1 visa holders, on the other hand, do not have any such requirements. However, the educational institution they attend may have health insurance requirements for their incoming international students. 

Typically, most U.S. universities offer health insurance plans designed specifically for their students. It is always a good idea to visit the university website and contact their international student office for more information. In addition to health plans hosted by your institution, you can obtain health insurance via third-party vendors such as ISO (International Student Insurance). ISO offers a variety of health plans based on your visa status. It is a great resource for those with F1 and J1 visas and their dependents. 

Student visa-holders traveling to New York are eligible under the ACA (Affordable Care Act) to enroll in qualified health plans by the NY State of Health. Qualified Health Pans are private health insurance plans that provide essential health benefits. They come with a standard deductible, co-payments, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket prices. 

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Health Benefit Alternative

Mira allows visa holders and non-citizens to sign up with the option to include family and friends on their plans as dependents. Since Mira isn’t insurance, no deductible or proof of income is required.

Members can choose from 3 different coverage plans based on their specific needs. The first one is a Flexible plan for an average of $45 a month for 3 months of coverage. This plan is best for those looking for short-term health coverage. The Saver plan offers 12 months of coverage at an average of $25 a month. The Lowest Copay plan comes at an average of $60 a month with 6 months of coverage and the lowest co-pay rates.

Mira’s coverage includes in-person urgent care visits for $99, virtual primary care, virtual urgent care and behavioral health care for $25, lab testing, prescription discounts, and a dedicated care team to help you find the right providers.

COBRA Coverage

Temporary work visa holders may also be eligible for COBRA coverage if they have lost their health coverage due to a qualifying event. COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act and is meant to protect employees and their families from losing employer-sponsored health insurance after losing a job or other events. As a temporary work visa holder, you and your family are most likely eligible to opt for COBRA coverage. 

Health Insurance for Visa Holders in the U.S. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are a few commonly asked questions about health insurance coverage for visa holders in the U.S. 

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What visa categories are there?

All non-immigrant visas are temporary and have an expiration period. The U.S. Department of State outlines a series of non-immigrant visa categories that are valid for temporary residence in the country. Here is a brief and non-exhaustive list:

Visa CategoryPurpose
AForeign government employees and their families.
BBusiness visitors or visitors for travel or medical treatment. 
CForeign travelers in transit through the U.S.
DShip or plane crew members who land temporarily in the U.S. 
EEmployees of U.S. trading companies with more than 50% capital in their home country.
FAcademic students and their families.
GForeign government representatives working for an international organization in the U.S.
HNurses, temporary workers and trainees, and their families. 
IRepresentatives of foreign press and their families. 
JExchange visitors who come to the U.S. to study, work or train as part of an exchange program.

Can visa holders get Obamacare?

Only lawfully present immigrants and U.S. citizens are eligible for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The following is a list of immigrants who qualify to use the Marketplace.

  • Lawful Permanent Resident/Green Card Holder
  • Asylee
  • Refugee
  • Cuban/Haitian Entrant
  • Paroled into the U.S.
  • Conditional Entrant Granted before 1980
  • Battered Spouse, Child, and Parent
  • Victim of Trafficking and his/her Spouse, Child, Sibling, or Parent
  • Granted Withholding of Deportation or Withholding of Removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention against Torture (CAT)
  • Individual with Non-immigrant Status includes worker visas (such as H1, H-2A, H-2B), student visas, U-visa, T-visa, and other visas, and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
  • Deferred Action Status (Exception: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is not an eligible immigration status for applying for health insurance)
  • Lawful Temporary Resident
  • Administrative order staying removal issued by the Department of Homeland Security
  • Member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe or American Indian Born in Canada
  • Resident of American Samoa

Do international students need U.S. health insurance?

International students entering the U.S. on a J1 visa must be covered under a health insurance plan that fulfills the requirements established by the U.S. Department of State. These requirements include the following.

  • Medical coverage of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with medical evacuation
  • Deductible of at most $500 per accident or illness
  • Policy issued by an insurance carrier with an acceptable financial rating

Those entering the U.S. with an F1 visa have no specific legal requirements for their health insurance and for that of their family. However, it is possible (and very likely) that the academic institution will enforce its health insurance requirements which you need to meet before enrolling in classes. 

Bottom Line

Having some health plan is necessary to have especially in these unprecedented times. Regardless of your citizenship status, you should be able to go to the doctor without fear of breaking the bank. You and your family can be covered using a health insurance alternative, COBRA, or your employment plan.

Mira offers exclusive health benefits for just $45 per month and with no deductible, including affordable urgent care visits, low-cost lab testing, and discounted prescriptions. Our care navigation team can also help you find affordable healthcare services in your area! Sign up today to get started.

Girisha Bharadwaj

Girisha is a second-year graduate student at Columbia University, pursuing a Master's in Public Health. She is excited to combine her passion for Public Health and writing with the hopes of delivering quality health information, one article at a time!