Understanding J-1 Visa Insurance: FAQs Answered


Ed Zaleck | Feb 15, 2024 Insurance

The J-1 visa program facilitates cultural exchange and educational opportunities by allowing individuals from other countries to temporarily reside in the United States for various purposes, including work, study, research, and teaching.

One relatively unknown aspect of the J-1 visa program in the U.S. is how to account for health insurance coverage. Here, we delve into frequently asked questions about J-1 visa insurance to help participants understand their rights, responsibilities, and options.

Is insurance required for J1 visa holders?

Yes – the U.S Department of State requires all those on J1 visa to have health insurance coverage for the full duration of their stay in the United States.

In some cases, your program will provide insurance for you but if not, you must look to purchase a private insurance plan elsewhere. If you cannot provide proof of coverage for the full duration of your program, you risk having your program terminated so it’s imperative to stay on top of this and be informed of your possible options.

What Are the Minimum Requirements for J-1 Visa Insurance?

To meet the U.S. Department of State requirements, J1 insurance plans must have:

  • Medical Benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of Remains benefits of at least $25,000
  • Medical evacuation benefits of at least $50,000
  • A deductible that does not exceed $500 per accident or illness.
  • One of the following financial strength ratings:
  • An A.M. Best rating of “A-“ or above
  • A McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A-“ or above
  • A Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above
  • A Fitch Ratings, Inc of “A-“ or above
  • A Moody’s Investor Services rating of “A3” or above

Please note that your school/program may also have requirements that your plan should meet to be accepted. You should review with a representative from your program to verify.

Is it okay to purchase a J1 insurance for 12 months?

In most cases, yes – health insurance plans in the U.S. are typically not offered for more than 12 months at a time due to the fact most plan options are renewed by the broker/underwriting on an annual basis.

If you have a multi-year program, you shouldn’t have issues showing coverage for 12 months – just make sure you are covered from your program’s start date and purchase continuous dates of coverage in the future, so you’re enrolled for your full program duration.

What is medical evacuation and repatriation?

Medical evacuation refers to the benefits you would receive specifically if you needed to be transferred from one medical facility to another in either the U.S. or your home country in the case of a medical emergency.

Repatriation refers to the benefits you would receive to transfer your remains back to your home country in the case you pass away.

Do J1 visa holders require an ACA-Compliant plan?

No – J1 visa holders generally only need to meet the U.S. Department of State requirements as listed above. Your program/school may require an ACA Compliant plan though.

Can I purchase coverage in my home country?

It will depend on the insurance company you choose to enroll with, but most will allow you to purchase coverage prior to your arrival in the U.S.

For ISO plans – we allow you to purchase directly through isoa.org while in your home country, with most international credit/debit cards accepted. You can enroll online in 5-10 minutes and will be sent all your insurance documentation via email as soon as you complete the enrollment.

Can I get a refund for my insurance if my visa is denied?

Ultimately, it depends on the plan you enroll in. Most ISO plans do offer the option to receive a refund in the event of a visa denial minus a cancellation fee, though all cases are subject to review by the cancellation department and refunds are not guaranteed.

We’d suggest reviewing the cancellation/refund policy in your plan brochure prior to finalizing your enrollment.

How do I confirm proof of my insurance?

Your insurance company will generally provide you with a document called a “Visa letter” or an equivalent document which shows proof of coverage and benefits that meet the J-1 visa requirements.

A majority of times you will need to show this to your consulate when applying for your J1 visa, though if not you should have proof of coverage available as it may be requested by immigration officials when you arrive in the U.S. or by one of your university/sponsor representatives.

Do J2 dependents require insurance as well?

Yes – any J2 dependents who accompany you as a J visa scholar will be required to have an insurance plan which meets the U.S. Department of State requirements as listed above.

Who can I purchase a plan with?

ISO provides health insurance plans for J visa scholars in the US with the option to add dependent spouse/children to this plan. The most popular plans are our J1 Exchange and Exchange Superior plans, which meet and exceed the U.S. Department of State requirements and will be accepted at a majority of schools/programs across the U.S.

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About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

For more information, please visit www.isoa.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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