International student insurance: What kind of medical cover should I get?

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Bryan Smith - May, 22 2024

4 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

When you’re getting ready to embark on your study abroad journey, you may have contemplated what international medical insurance you’ll want to purchase before your studies begin.

While some international student visas - particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom - require incoming students to have at least some level of medical cover, others don’t; though it can be a worthwhile endeavour to seek out coverage regardless in the unfortunate event that you fall ill while abroad.

The good news is that there are many providers which offer medical insurance for international students.

In many countries, you will be treated in an emergency situation regardless of whether you have health insurance coverage - however, if you are uninsured, you would be expected to settle all medical costs incurred which could be prohibitive to completing your studies abroad.

Fortunately, there are various overseas student health cover programmes that cater specifically to the needs of international students which offer varying levels of cover. This is especially important to consider if you have a pre-existing chronic condition or illness that requires you to purchase prescription drugs.

The best insurance for students

Generally, countries around the world offer two types of insurance programmes - public, and private.

Public health programmes, sometimes under the banner of a National Health Insurance scheme such as in the UK, may offer government-subsidised medical insurance for international visitors.

Private programmes, in other nations, might enable you to purchase a subscription to coverage which will enable you to visit affiliated private healthcare facilities.

Which programmes are right for you are determined by your medical needs, your budget, and, ultimately, the laws and requirements of your study country.

Before you explore the various options available on the market, your first step should be to explore the requirements of your international study visa, if applicable. Certain visas, such as the US F1 student visa, require you to have some level of medical coverage that complies with national legislation. To do so, you might want to seek out options for health insurance for international students.

Is international student health insurance temporary?

Most international student health cover programmes are available as temporary short-term policies, meaning that your subscription will run on a month-to-month basis and that you can generally use the service for as long as you wish to while abroad.

Once you return to your home country, or successfully pursue citizenship or residency in your study country, you’ll be able to cancel your cover.

It is important to review any terms and conditions that are associated with your cover before signing to ensure that you will be able to cancel your subscription when you no longer need it.

What kinds of limitations does international medical cover usually have?

International student medical cover will typically not cover elective or cosmetic surgeries, and depending on your chosen study country may have to comply with any legal restrictions to provide adequate coverage on any pre-existing conditions that you may have.

Will my school offer medical insurance?

Your chosen university of study may offer medical insurance, which is typically “white-labelled” and administered by an insurer.

How do I use my medical insurance when abroad?

Some international medical schemes will provide you with an associated debit card or savings card to use while abroad, in which refunds for your expenses, or amounts deposited in anticipation of procedures or emergencies, can be used.

Some medical insurance providers may alternatively require that you first fund your expenses out of your own pocket before seeking a full reimbursement on your claim.

Should I consider international student dental insurance?

While the contents of your chosen insurance plan will differ between providers, it’s worthwhile noting that not all international insurance schedules will cover dental emergencies.

This means that should you elect to have cosmetic or surgical procedures done, your insurance schedule may not cover the scope of the procedure and you would need to pay out of your own pocket.

If you are concerned about your dental health during the course of your studies, you may wish to pursue independent dental insurance or enquire if there is an additional “top up” or service component you can add to your existing coverage.

What are some examples of international student health insurance?

While there are many international student medical insurance policies available on the market, some options frequently used by travellers for overseas student health cover are:

Compass Student Insurance

Compass Insurance provides various packages from upwards of $35 USD per month. For students who wish to participate in sports or extreme sports during their studies, there are applicable plans available for these purposes as well.


AETNA provides international student health coverage that works with many top-tier US universities, and is often available as underwritten policies from other universities as well.


ISO Student Insurance provides international medical cover on four plans and further provides multilingual support to students in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Hindi and more.

IMG Global

IMG Group provides international health, travel, and travel medical insurance for travellers either on holiday, business, or those who are studying abroad.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are intended as an overview for illustrative and educational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement of any international medical insurance plan mentioned.

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