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Affordable Care Act and F or J Visa
By Michelle Z.
published at: 2020-07-20T15:37:00Z

A guide for international students and scholars to understand insurance requirements in the United States under the Affordable Care Act

Most International Students and Scholars are Exempt

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Explained

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed by President Obama in 2010. The bill requires citizens and certain non-citizen residents to carry at least the minimum specified level of insurance coverage. Failure to maintain the required coverage results in a fine. The act was implemented in an effort to increase the quality and accessibility of insurance. While citizens are mandated to carry coverage, international students and scholars on F, J, M and Q visa, and OPT are largely exempt from the regulations of the Affordable Care Act.

Who is exempt?

In the case of non-citizens, the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) determines whether an individual is bound by the requirements of the affordable care act based on residency status. Someone considered a "non-resident alien" is not bound by ACA. An individual considered "resident alien" is subject to the requirements and penalties for not carrying the correct policy. F, Q, J and M visa are all considered "non-resident alien" and generally are not subject to the requirements of the ACA. This dramatically reduces the price of insurance for international students and scholars in the USA.

Why buy International Policies?

The requirements of the ACA are designed to provide a level of coverage that is not needed and would be unnecessarily expensive for international students. ACA requirements are designed for lifetime benefits that international students would not need to use. Buying ACA compliant insurance for an international student is means you are paying for more than you need. Domestic policies are required to cover wellness and prevention care. Most insurance plans designed for international students do not include wellness and prevention. Instead they allow the policyholder to pay out of pocket for these expenses, resulting in dramatically less expensive policies.

Plans designed for international students are specifically intended to fit the needs of someone who is not a US citizen. Options to choose for international policies include emergency medical evacuation, emergency reunion coverage, lost checked baggage coverage, as well as appropriate coverage in case of death while studying abroad. These benefits are of no value to American citizens as such they are not found in ACA-compliant policies.


Many institutions have implemented their own insurance requirements to ensure the safety of their international students and scholars. To determine the requirements of your institution, view our special lookup resource:look up your school or other sponsors insurance requirements. You will find an individual page designed specifically for your organization. If your school or organization is not listed you can contact us (contact information is on the webpage) to ask us for help understanding what insurance you are required to carry.


J Visa Holders have government regulations mandating specific insurance requirements. More information about these requirements can be found here J visa holders are required to meet the governments specified minimum coverage levels for J visa holders AND their sponsors minimum requirements.

F, Q and M visa holders are only required to meet the standards set by their institution. There are no government regulations dictating required coverage levels.TaiAn Insurance can help you find the requirements for your school and match you with the policy that fits your needs and budget.