Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • Visa holders in the United States are able to purchase health insurance on the healthcare exchange marketplace website
  • If your income meets the requirements, you are eligible for premium tax credits and other cost-sharing savings
  • Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for health insurance through the marketplace
  • If you are a qualified non-citizen and your income meets the requirements, you may be eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program after a five-year waiting period or other determining criteria
  • Depending on your visa status, you may not be responsible for paying the individual mandate penalty fine if you do not have health insurance
  • As a visa holder, you also have the option to purchase short term health insurance

Lawfully present immigrants are eligible to purchase a plan through the Marketplace. This term refers to those who hold a valid non-immigrant visa as well as green card holders and refugees.

Worker visas, including H1, H-2A, and H-2B visas, student visas, U visas, T visas, and several others all count as non-immigrant visas. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for health insurance.

If your income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for premium tax credits and other savings. When you apply for a marketplace plan, you may need to provide documentation as proof of your immigration status. If you are on a student visa, you may need to show your certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant student status with your application.

Am I eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program if I am a visa holder?

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Temporary visa holders typically are not eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. However, green card holders and other qualified non-citizens are eligible if they meet their state’s income and residency requirements. This usually includes a five-year waiting period except in some circumstances for refugees and asylees.

Some states have removed the five-year waiting period for Medicaid and CHIP for pregnant women and children who are lawfully residing in that state. Medicaid will provide payment for emergency treatment for those who meet Medicaid income and residency requirements but do not have a qualifying immigration status.

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Am I required to get health insurance as a visa holder?

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If you are considered a non-resident alien for tax reasons, you are not required to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act regulations. Those who have a resident alien tax status are required to purchase a health insurance plan or pay the individual mandate penalty fine.

Students who are on F, J, Q, and M visas are considered non-resident aliens and are not required to enroll in a health insurance plan. However, many schools offer health insurance plans that will cover you for just a semester so you may want to look into those even if you are not required to have coverage.

What is the individual mandate penalty fine?

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If you have a resident alien tax status, you are subject to the Affordable Care Act regulations and are required to enroll in a health insurance plan. If you do not get health coverage, you will be required to pay the individual mandate penalty fine. This fine is calculated in one of two ways and you will have to pay whichever of the two is higher.

You will either have to pay 2.5 percent of your total household income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under the age of 18 with a maximum set to $2,085. You will only have to pay the fine for those in your household without insurance, not every member of the household.

You will pay the fine when you file your federal tax returns for the following year. If you do not pay the fine, the IRS will withhold the amount from any future tax refunds. There are no criminal penalties or typical means of collection to ensure that you pay the fine.

What is short term health insurance?

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Short term health insurance might be a good option for temporary visa holders. Short term health insurance does not meet the minimum essential coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act so if you have a resident alien tax status, you may still be responsible for paying the individual mandate penalty fine.

Note: You can be denied from a short term health insurance plan because of a pre-existing condition or another determining factor.

Short term health insurance plans can last from 30 days to 12 months depending on the plan. They are typically low-cost plans that work well in times of emergency. You cannot purchase a short term health insurance plan on the healthcare exchange marketplace, but you can buy one from a private insurance company or broker.

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Health Insurance for Visa Holders in US

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Lawfully present immigrants, including visa holders, are able to purchase a short term health insurance plan or a plan on the Healthcare Exchange. They might not be eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

If you have a non-resident alien tax status, you are not required to get a health insurance plan. If you have a resident alien tax status, you are required to purchase a plan and may have to pay the individual mandate penalty fine if you do not enroll in a qualifying plan.

If you are eligible for US health insurance, enter your zip code below to compare free private health insurance quotes!