Health Insurance and Medical Resources

Students and scholars on J-1 visas are required to carry health insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents for the full duration of their J program. Specific insurance requirements can be found below on this page, in addition to other useful information related to health insurance.

Why health insurance is important

It is extremely unwise to be in the U.S. without adequate health insurance. The coverage should be from the moment you arrive in the U.S. Due to the high cost of medical care and hospitalization, each individual, couple and family should be enrolled in a medical insurance plan suited to their needs. Although in many countries the government bears the expense of health care for its citizens, and sometimes even for visitors, individuals and families in the U.S. are responsible for these costs themselves.

Since a single day of hospitalization and medical treatment can cost thousands of dollars, many hospitals and doctors do not treat uninsured patients except in life-threatening emergencies. Most Americans rely on insurance, and you should do the same. Insurance gives you access to better and more timely health care, and provides the only protection against the enormous costs of health care in this country.

Top of page

Affordable Care Act (ACA) and International Students and Scholars

Who is subject to ACA?

  • The answer depends whether an individual is considered a non-resident or resident for tax purposes. Non-residents for tax purposes are not subject to ACA, whereas residents for tax purposes are subject to ACA.

How do I determine whether or not I am a resident or non-resident for tax purpose?

  • An individual’s tax residency status is determined by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Different rules apply to students and scholars:
    • Student in lawful F-1 and J-1 status (and their dependents in F-2 and J-2) present in the U.S. for five calendar years are considered non-residents for tax purposes and are exempt from ACA requirements. Those present in the US for more than five calendar years are considered residents for tax purposes, and are subject to ACA requirements.
    • Scholars in lawful J-1status (including their dependents) present in the U.S. for up to two calendar years are also considered non-residents for tax purposes. Those present in the US for more than two calendar years are considered residents for tax purposes, and subject to ACA requirements
  • Detailed information on determining tax residency status can also be found here:

However, both those in the student and scholar categories may elect to continue to be considered non-residents for tax purposes after these time periods if they can demonstrate the “closer connection exception”:

Where can I find additional information about ACA ?

Top of page

How health insurance works

When you purchase health coverage, the money you pay (your premium) is combined with the premiums of others who have purchased the same health coverage as you, to form a pool of money. That money is then used to pay the medical bills of those participants who need health care. Your coverage remains valid only as long as you continue to pay your insurance premiums.

Once you purchase insurance, the company will provide you with an insurance identification card for use as proof of your coverage when you are seeking health care from a hospital or doctor. The company will also provide written instructions for reporting and documenting medical expenses (filing a claim). You should also contact them to get a list of physicians and medical practices that your insurance plan will cover.

The company will evaluate any claim that you file, and make the appropriate payment for coverage under your particular policy. In some cases the company pays the hospital or doctor directly; in others the company reimburses the policy holder after he or she has paid the bills.

Top of page


Insurance information for students

Department of State regulations require all J-1 visa holders and their J-2 dependents to be covered by medical insurance at all times. The I-Center is obligated, by federal law, to cancel the J-1 visa of any student who willfully neglects to obtain medical insurance for themselves or family members. (Please note that Stanford's Cardinal Care Plan does meet the Department of State insurance requirements.)

Dental insurance is NOT included in the University's student health care plan.

Top of page


Insurance information for International Postdocs

Stanford requires all Postdocs regardless of visa status to be covered by a comprehensive medical plan that is ACA compliant. Stanford Postdoc medical insurance meets this requirement. Postdocs who are employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week are eligible to participate in the Stanford Postdoc Benefit plans. Travel Policies are not adequate insurance coverage to meet Stanford's requirement

Go to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs 'Benefits' page for information on their medical plans

Top of page


Insurance information for Visiting Student Researchers

Registered Visiting Student Researchers are required to purchase Stanford's Cardinal Care Health plan unless they are exempted from this requirement by Vaden Health Center. All inquiries concerning such exemptions should be directed to Vaden Health Center.

Please note that in addition to purchasing health insurance, Visiting Student Researchers are also required to pay the Campus Health Service Fee.

Top of page


Insurance information for Visiting Scholars

Visiting scholars in J-1 visa status may choose to be covered by insurance plans obtained overseas. However, these plans must meet Department of State requirements.

Visiting Scholars are not eligible for Stanford's insurance plans and must obtain their own insurance coverage.

Top of page


Insurance information for dependents

Dependent insurance services offered by Stanford University vary according to the Stanford status.

If family members will accompany you, plan on additional insurance coverage for all dependents, at added cost. Please be aware that there is NO cheap medical insurance available for dependents, but such insurance is still mandatory for students and scholars in J-1 status.

Dependents of Students

Stanford offers a health insurance plan for students' dependents. More information is available here.

Dependents of Postdocs

Postdocs can learn about the options for dependent coverage through the Benefits department of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. For details, consult their web site and attend a Postdoc Orientation, held every week. For the most current orientation schedule, please click here.

Top of page


Additional resources for finding health insurance

Excellent information specific to students and their dependents can be found at the Insurance Office at Vaden Health Center at Stanford (650) 723-2135 or visit their web site.

Although the I-Center does not endorse any specific insurance plan, these companies offer insurance to international students and scholars:

Information and application forms on several plans, including plans offering coverage for the dependents of students and visiting scholars, are available at the I-Center through the Resource Center for International Families. Opening hours at the Resource Center are listed on the web site.

Visiting scholars are responsible for verifying that whatever insurance plan they decide to purchase meets the Department of State's specifications.

There are no insurance experts at the I-Center; we recommend that you contact a local insurance broker if you have questions or concerns about insurance. A broker represents a variety of plans and is able to tailor policies to particular needs such as those specified by the State Department.  One such local broker can be found here:

Top of page


Choosing an insurance policy

Take the following into consideration before buying insurance:

  • Deductible amounts. Most insurance policies require you to cover part of your health expenses yourself (your part is called the deductible), before the company pays anything. Under some policies the deductible is annual, and you pay only once each year if you use the insurance. Under others, you pay the deductible each time you have an illness or injury. In choosing insurance, you should think carefully about how much you can afford to pay out of your own pocket each time you are sick or injured, and weigh the deductible against the premium before you decide.
  • Co-insurance. Usually, even after you have paid the deductible, an insurance policy pays only a percentage of your medical expenses. The policy might pay 80%, for example, and the remaining 20%, which you would have to pay, is called the co-insurance. Thus, if you were injured and incurred $3,000 in medical expenses, a policy with a $400 deductible and 20% co-insurance would cover $2,080 (80% of $2,600).
  • Specific limits. Some policies state specific dollar limits on what they will pay for particular services. Other policies pay "usual" or "reasonable and customary" charges, which means they pay what is usually charged in the local area. Be very careful in evaluating policies with specific dollar limits; for serious illnesses, the limit might be far too low and you might have large medical bills not covered by your insurance.
  • Lifetime/per-occurrence maximums. Many insurance policies limit the amount they will pay for any single individual's medical bills or for any specific illness or injury. Exchange Visitors must have insurance with a maximum no lower than $50,000 for each specific illness or injury, which may be enough for most conditions. Major illnesses, however, can cost several times that amount.
  • Benefit period. Some insurance policies limit the amount of time they will go on paying for each illness or injury. In that case, after the benefit period for a condition has expired, you must pay the full cost of continuing treatment of the illness, even if you are still insured by the company. A policy with a long benefit period provides the best coverage.
  • Exclusions. Most insurance policies exclude coverage for certain conditions.Read the list of exclusions carefully so that you understand exactly what is not covered by the policy.

Top of page


Required insurance specifications for students and scholars on J-1 visas

Department of State (DOS) regulations require all J-1 visa holders and their J-2 dependents to be covered by medical insurance at all times. The I-Center is obligated, by federal law, to cancel the J-1 visa of any Exchange Visitor who willfully neglects to obtain medical insurance for themselves or their family members.

The following requirements have been established by the DOS for the type and amounts of coverage you must carry if you hold J-1 or J-2 status:

  • Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness. *** Starting May 15, 2015 this will be $100,000 ***
  • Repatriation* of remains in the amount of $7,500 *** Starting May 15, 2015 this will be $25,000 ***
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation* of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000. *** Starting May 15, 2015 this will be $50,000 ***
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
  • If a particular activity is a part of your Exchange Visitor program, your insurance must cover injuries resulting from your participation in that activity.
  • The policy may establish a waiting period before it covers pre-existing conditions (health problems you had before you bought the insurance), as long as the waiting period is reasonable by current standards in the insurance industry.
  • The policy must be backed by the full faith and credit of your home country government or the company providing the insurance must meet minimum rating requirements established by DOS (an A. M. Best rating of "A-" or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of "A-i" or above, a Standard & Poor's Claims-paying Ability rating of "A-" or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above).

*Coverage for Repatriation and Medical Evacuation is required for J-1 Exchange Visitors. Barney & Barney LLC provides such coverage. Please contact them for further information and to obtain the necessary forms.  Medex is another company that provides such coverage.

Please note that these companies are only suggestions for your reference and we are in no way endorsing them or their services.

Top of page


Health care locations

On campus:

Vaden Health Center

Allene G. Vaden Health Center is located at 866 Campus Drive across from Wilbur Field. For more information, see the web site at or call 650-498-2336.

Students enrolled in a degree program including Visiting Researchers are eligible to access all of Vaden's services including:
Personal Counseling. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides services to students who experience a wide variety of personal, academic, and relationship concerns. For more information, call 650-723-3785 or check CAPS web site.


Dental Services. To encourage students to meet their dental health needs, Vaden Health Center maintains a list of local dentists who have agreed to give discounts to students. (Note: Dental insurance is NOT included in the University's student health care plan.) The list of discount dentists and dental insurance information is included in the dental resource packet available at the insurance office on the first floor at the Vaden Health Center.

Immunization Clinics. The Vaden Health Center offers Allergy/Immunization Clinics. For information and appointments, call 498-2336 or check the Vaden Allergy, Immunization and Injection Clinic web site.

Postdocs, visiting scholars, visiting student researchers, and their spouses, domestic partners, and dependents age 18 and over, including the dependents of registered students, may all use the following services at Vaden on a fee-for-service basis: Medical Services, Travel Clinic and the Pharmacy. For information and appointments, call 650-498-2336 or check Vaden’s web site.

Top of page


Off campus:

There is a wealth of medical resources in the Stanford area. To find a physician you can consult the yellow pages of the telephone directory, under “Physicians”. A full range of medical treatment and services is offered at clinics such as:

Top of page

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints | Report web accessibility issue