If you’re an international student, one of the most important pieces of paperwork you need to complete on your way to studying in the United States is your visa application. This document determines how long you can stay in the country, what kind of work you can do while here, and how much money you can bring into the country. But did you know that getting a US visa also determines whether or not you can get affordable health insurance?

Are you covered by your parents’ insurance plan?

Many international students, particularly those from Canada, are automatically covered by their parents’ health insurance. However, if you’re an adult who can no longer use your parent’s plan and you do not qualify for any other type of coverage, then yes—you will need to purchase a policy on your own. The key here is to purchase insurance before you have any kind of medical need; it’s much easier to get coverage once your are healthy than if you were sick!

Are you covered by your school or program’s student health insurance plan?

A few different health insurance plans may be available to you as an international student. If your school or program offers a health insurance plan, you’ll likely be required to enroll in it, but keep in mind that many schools and programs do not provide full coverage. Also note that, due to complicated regulations, only certain types of health insurance plans are legally required to cover international students who are temporarily visiting in order to study—and many don’t. Make sure to understand exactly what your plan covers before signing up; otherwise, if something unexpected happens (e.g., an accident), you could find yourself struggling with medical bills long after your classes have ended.

What are your options if you are not covered by either of these plans?

As an international student, you may be thinking about buying health insurance. Before going out and spending money on a plan, make sure to consider all your options. If you’re in school less than five months a year, chances are your overseas policy will cover you during that time period but will not give you coverage while living in America.

Here are some other options: buy short-term insurance; look into a cheaper PPO plan; purchase coverage through an employer (if they have one) or offer to work extra hours as payment; visit your local urgent care facility; stay covered by your family’s health insurance at home (if they have it). Most important: always get quotes from more than one insurer before making any decisions.

Why getting insured as soon as possible is important?

Uninsured students are particularly at risk of being unaware of their own health risks. Young adults, especially males in their late teens or early 20s, are already at risk for such issues as obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. When combined with less healthy eating habits, poor nutrition, limited exercise (or none at all), even a basic lack of physical activity can pose serious health threats. But that’s not to say international students have no option if they cannot afford health insurance right away; there is still time to pick up a temporary plan until you’re eligible for international student coverage under your university’s program.

How long does it take to get approved for a new policy when you move to the United States?

Unlike other countries, United States residents are not required to have health insurance. That said, many employers do require their employees to have some sort of health coverage. To add more fuel to that fire, not having coverage can mean an automatic tax penalty if you’re found in violation. So when it comes time to buy a policy for yourself, how long does it take? Can you shop around on your own? Is there a wait period before you’re covered? It depends on what type of insurance you choose; here’s how long it takes depending on your needs

Do you need pre-existing condition coverage before entering the country?

If you’re from a country that has different healthcare laws than those in America, you may be left wondering whether or not you’ll be able to afford your health insurance after moving. The answer to that question depends on a few factors: first, whether or not you have a pre-existing condition (and if so, how big it is) second, what country you came from; third, where in America you live; and fourth, how much time has passed since arriving in your new country. It sounds complicated but don’t worry—this guide breaks it all down in simple terms so that even folks with no experience with insurance know just what they need to do!