There are a variety of Visas that allow international students to travel to the U.S. on educational or cultural exchange programs. Some are for a short period of time, such as a semester or a year, but others are designed to allow international students more time to participate in research projects, fellowships, and so on.
J1 Visas are designed for either scholars or professors interested in staying in the United States for up to five years in order to participate in long-term research or postdoctoral work. Many universities in the U.S. sponsor such scholars, offering opportunities for research and collaboration that crosses international borders.
Of course, there are many rules and restrictions associated with “non-resident aliens” living in the United States. Because there are serious restrictions regarding working in the U.S. on J1 Visa, scholars or professors must have adequate financial support to cover expenses during their time in the U.S., such as a fellowship or some other temporary academic appointment at a university. These scholars or professors must also maintain health insurance coverage for accident and illness while they hold a J1 Visa and live in the U.S.
Some J1 scholars and professors are married and/or have children that they would naturally like to bring with them during their time living in the U.S. on a J1 Visa. These accompanying exchange visitors may be eligible for non-immigrant, J2 Visa status, which applies to a spouse and/or minor children (under the age of 21) that accompany a J1 holder to the U.S.
Maintaining J2 Visa status is dependent upon the maintenance of the associated J1 Visa, so that when the J1 Visa expires or is revoked, so too are any related J2 Visas. In addition, there are a variety of rules and regulations particular to J2 Visa holders.
For example, a J2 Visa holder may be eligible for employment with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security, but may not use their earnings to support the J1 Visa holder they traveled to the U.S. with. J2 Visa holders, like J1 Visa holders, are also required to maintain appropriate health insurance coverage. Here’s what J2 Visa holders need to know about insurance requirements.
J2 Health Insurance Coverage Requirements
The requirements for J1 and J2 health insurance coverage are the same, and the mandatory terms for coverage are as follows:
- Coverage for medical benefits: a minimum of $100,000 per accident or illness
- Coverage for repatriation of remains: $25,000
- Coverage for medical evacuation to home country: $50,000
- Deductible: no more than $500 per accident or illness
- Minimum rating for the insurance carrier underwriting the policy
J2 Visa holders that are unsure whether or not a particular health insurance policy meets requirements should check with the Health Information Organization (HIO). Since a failure to meet these requirements could result in a J2 Visa being revoked and the holder being sent back to their country of origin, compliance with all rules and regulations is imperative.
J1 Visa holders are sponsored by the university at which they will study and, as a result, they may be eligible for suitable health insurance coverage through the university. What about their J2 dependents, though? How can a spouse and/or minor children of J1 Visa holder obtain appropriate health insurance coverage in order to meet eligibility requirements to become J2 Visa holders? Here are a few options to explore.
Some students and their dependent family members traveling to the United States on J1 and J2 Visas will already have health insurance coverage obtained in their home country. In order to ensure that such policies are acceptable, policy holders will need to check in with their insurance providers and the HIO.
Insurance providers can inform policy holders whether or not their coverage extends overseas, allowing them to maintain and utilize their health benefits during their time in the United States. The HIO should be able to review foreign policies in order to determine whether they will meet the mandatory requirements to maintain eligibility for J2 Visa status.
J1 scholars or professors sponsored by a university may receive health insurance coverage options through the university, and these benefits often extend to J2 dependents. In some cases, sponsoring institutions require that J1 and J2 Visa holders enroll in their insurance program, while others allow users to decide if they want university health insurance or if they would rather purchase private insurance instead.
Some schools offer campus insurance policies to J1 scholars or professors they are sponsoring, but not their J2 dependents, in which case private insurance is an option. If a university does not offer such insurance, both J1 and J2 Visa holders will have to seek appropriate insurance privately.
One option for affordable coverage is the International Student Health Insurance Plan (ISHIP). Some universities offer such plans and they are also available through private insurance providers.
Employer Health Benefits
J2 Visa holders that receive an EAD and find a job in the U.S. during their stay may be eligible to receive health insurance benefits through their place of employment. This could be an affordable option so long as the health insurance policy provided meets the standards for J2 Visa eligibility.
Because J1 and J2 Visa holders are considered “non-resident aliens” during their time in the U.S., they are generally not eligible for health insurance coverage through Obamacare, or the ACA (Affordable Care Act) health insurance marketplace. In some ways, this is better for short-term residents in the U.S.
For one thing, classification as a “non-resident alien” also exempts J1 and J2 Visa holders from the mandate to maintain minimum coverage under ACA standards. While these Visa holders will still have to meet the requirements for coverage through the J1/J2 Visa program, they will not have to meet a second set of standards as prescribed by the ACA.
In addition, ACA coverage requirements are geared toward those seeking lifelong healthcare benefits, which may not be suitable for short-term residents. Other, less comprehensive health insurance options are bound to be more appealing to J1 and J2 Visa holders.