For J-1 Scholars and J-1 Student Interns
US federal law mandates that J-1 Exchange Visitors and J-2 dependents maintain health insurance throughout the duration of their Exchange Visitor program. Because this requirement is included in the rules for maintaining J non-immigrant status, willful failure to maintain health insurance is considered a violation of status. Status violations must be reported to the US Department of State and can result in the termination of your Vanderbilt employment and exchange visitor program activities, among other consequences.
Health Insurance Requirements
Vanderbilt J-1 scholars (research scholar, professor, short-term scholar, specialist or student intern) must maintain health insurance that meets the requirements outlined in the federal regulations for themselves and any J-2 dependents residing in the US. This coverage must be valid for the entire duration of the exchange visitor program (duration on the form DS-2019).
Health insurance for J-1 Exchange Visitors and J-2 dependents must meet the insurance policy requirements in the following section. We recommend that you purchase health insurance for yourself, and any dependents who will accompany you, before you depart for the US. You will be required to show proof of compliant health insurance during your J-1 Scholar SEVIS Check-in upon your arrival to Vanderbilt University.
Willful failure to maintain adequate health insurance coverage is a violation of J-1 status and will result in the loss of employment authorization, extension of stay, change of status, etc. J-1 Exchange Visitors and J-2 dependents must have and maintain health insurance that meets or exceeds the conditions described below.
1. Lifetime/per occurrence maximum: The lifetime/per occurrence maximum cannot be less than $100,000. This is the maximum the insurance will pay over your lifetime and/or for each specific illness or injury.
2. Deductible: The deductible for the insurance plan cannot be more than $500 per accident or illness. A deductible is the expense amount paid by you before the insurance will provide coverage.
3. Medical Evacuation: The insurance plan must provide at least $50,000 for medical evacuation to your home country. This is the amount your insurance will pay to send you home for medical treatment on the advice of a doctor.
4. Repatriation of Remains: The insurance plan must provide at least $25,000 for repatriation of remains. This is the amount your insurance will pay to send your remains to your home country in the event of death in the US.
5. Insurance Rating/Financial Solvency: The insurance that you choose that meets the above requirements must also be:
(1) Underwritten by an insurance corporation with an A.M. Best rating of “A-” or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above, a Standard and Poor’s Claims Paying Ability rating of “A-” or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above; or
(2) Backed by the full faith and credit of the government of your home country; or
(3) Part of a health benefits program offered on a group basis to employees or enrolled students by a designated sponsor. (i.e. part of your Vanderbilt University benefits if you are eligible to receive them)
The insurance policy may:
(1) Establish a waiting period before it covers pre-existing conditions if the waiting period is reasonable by current industry standards.
(2) May include provisions for co-insurance under the terms of which the exchange visitor may be required to pay up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness. Co-insurance is the percentage of expenses for which you are responsible for on a covered service. If your policy includes a co-insurance provision, it must establish that the provider will cover at least 75% of the covered medical expenses.
(3) Must not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which you will participate.
The insurance must cover the J-1 exchange visitor and accompanying J-2 dependents for the “actual duration of the exchange visitor’s participation in the exchange visitor program. (For exchange visitors who are participating in multiple year programs, the coverage can be purchased annually.)
Confirmation of Health Insurance Coverage
Incoming J-1 scholars who have been invited by a Vanderbilt University department will need to complete the J-1 Health Insurance Acknowledgment form for incoming Vanderbilt J scholars who are in the DS-2019 application process. This form must be completed before your host department can submit the DS-2019 application to ISSS.
If you will arrive to the US before your university health benefits will be effective, or if you will not be eligible for university health benefits, we strongly recommend that you purchase coverage for your first months prior to arriving in the US. Before making a purchase, review the insurance policy to make sure it meets all of the federal requirements.
Upon arrival to Vanderbilt University you will be required to complete a new J-1 Scholar SEVIS Check-in. During this process you will need to provide proof of your J-1 compliant health insurance coverage and complete the J-1 Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Requirement Pledge. This form must be completed each year during your Exchange Visitor program at Vanderbilt.
Health Insurance for Vanderbilt Employees
J-1 Exchange Visitors who are in a benefits eligible employee role at Vanderbilt are eligible to enroll in health benefits plans through the university. As of December 1, 2020, the Aetna International Plan is the employee health benefit plan that satisfies the federal requirements for J-1 Exchange Visitors. J-1 scholars who are benefits eligible and wish to participate in a university health plan must select the Aetna International Health plan during benefits enrollment.
For more information on the plan cost and coverage details, visit the HR benefits page. If you choose to waive participation in the Aetna International Health Plan, you will need to provide proof of health insurance coverage for yourself, and any J-2 dependents in the US with you, that meets the federal requirements.
Health Insurance for Non-Benefits Eligible Exchange Visitors
Vanderbilt University cannot recommend, or endorse any specific health insurance company or policy. A sample listing of health insurance providers that offer J-1 compliant plans, as well as a link to an international education vendor search is listed below.
- LewerMark Student Insurance (Individual Plans)
- Harbour Group Insurance
- ISO Insurance
- PSI International Health Insurance
- NAFSA International Education Marketplace – Health Insurance Vendor Search
Medical Evacuation and Repatriation
If your J-2 dependent(s) is eligible for and applies for work authorization through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they may be eligible for employee health benefits through their employer. The majority of employer plans in the US do not offer medical evacuation and repatriation of remains coverage. If you choose outside coverage for your J-2 dependent(s), or if they have access to health insurance through employment that does not include this coverage, you can purchase an additional policy for a small cost. Two available options are listed below.