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FAQ’s About Obamacare and F1 Visa Students

I hope answer some of frequently asked questions and basic facts about Obamacare and F1 Visa Students, H1B  Visa holders in this article.

There’s not a lot of information available about Obamacare and it’s impact on non-immigrants in USA. Non-Immigrants include students in F1 Visa, Tourists (B2 visa) temporary visa workers like H1B, L1, L2, etc.

What is Affordable Care Act?

Affordable Care Act (ACH) is also called Obamacare, which was passed in 2010.

  • Makes Health Insurance required for most people in USA (Health Insurance Mandate)
  • Health Insurance is available for everyone
  • Make insurance more affordable by providing tax credits for those who qualify

Here’s a short video that gives a Bird Eye View about the Affordable Care Act

Summary of changes  to health insurance law as shown in the video :

  • Ends Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions for Children
  • Keeps Young Adults Covered under parents plan till age of 26
  • Insurance company cannot cancel your coverage just because you made an honest mistake.
  • You have the right to ask that your plan reconsider  denial of payment.
  • Lifetime limits on most benefits are banned for all new health insurance plans.
  • Insurance companies must now publicly justify any unreasonable rate hikes.
  • Covers Preventive Care at No Cost to You
  • Choose the primary care doctor you want from your plan’s network.
  • You can seek emergency care at a hospital outside of your health plan’s network.

If you don’t understand some of the terms described in the video, don’t worry. This guide will explain in plain English about the Health Insurance Basics and new changes in the law.

Off all the benefits listed of Affordable Care Act, 4 points highlighted above should have the most impact to the majority of this blog readers ( F1 visa,  Tourists visiting USA in B2 Visa, H1B Workers, L1, L2 workers, etc).

What is Health Insurance?

Health Insurance is an agreement between you and your insurance company.

  • You decided to buy a plan from the insurance company for certain terms.
  • You pay a monthly premium (fixed) to buy the insurance coverage
  • The company will pay for medical expenses based on your terms of health insurance plan

Health Insurance Before Obamacare

Here are some of the problems that existed before Obamacare law

  • Pre-Existing conditions were not covered. For Example, if you had heart disease and decide to buy insurance coverage, Insurance company could deny your coverage, if you went to hospital for heart problems for initial few months.
  • There were Life time plan limits on how much the plan will pay. If someone has Cancer, it’s going to cost lot of money for the treatment. If your plan had lifetime maximum of  $500,000 and if expenses is more than $500,00 then additional expenses will not be covered. Could you afford to pay $200,000 in cash?

With ACA, health insurance company cannot deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or have life time plan limits.

Health Insurance After Obama Care

Obamacare care has fixed such problems with Health Insurance. Refer to the benefits in the above video.

But this new law is going to cost insurance companies lot more money.

To compensate that, Obamacare mandates all qualified people to have health insurance. That includes healthy people.

Additional premium paid by healthy people will cover additional expenses incurred by Health Insurance companies.

What is Health Insurance Mandate?

This is the most important part of the law. Obamacare requires qualified people in the USA to have mandatory Health Insurance.

If you are a qualified individual then you MUST have health insurance coverage.

If you qualified and don’t have health insurance, then you have to pay fine. 

If you are qualified but can’t afford to pay for health insurance, then the government is giving tax credits to pay for insurance.

Affordable Care Act provides a new tax credit to help you pay for health insurance purchased through the Marketplace.

Where do I buy the Health Insurance?

Here are some of the way to buy the Health Insurance coverage

Now, let’s look into the impact of the Obamacare on Non-Immigrants in the USA.

Obamacare and F1 Visa

Can Non-Immigrants qualify for buying health insurance in Marketplace?

H-1B, F-1 and  J-1 visa holders who are on work visas, student visas and exchange programs who have been in the country for less than five years are not eligible to buy insurance through the health care exchange.

I’m in F1 Student visa.  Does Health Insurance Mandate Apply for me?

Here’s where it gets tricky and not easy to understand.

Health insurance mandate is controlled by IRS. According to IRS, you must be considered as Resident-Alien for Tax purpose to enforce Health Insurance Mandate. Here’s Q&A page in IRS site which answers the questions.

Are all individuals living in the United States subject to the individual shared responsibility provision?

IRS is referring Health Insurance Mandate as Individual shared responsibility provision is called Health

All U.S. citizens are subject to the individual shared responsibility provision as are all permanent residents and all foreign nationals who are in the United States long enough during a calendar year to qualify as resident aliens for tax purposes.

Foreign nationals who live in the United States for a short enough period that they do not become resident aliens for federal income tax purposes are not subject to the individual shared responsibility payment even though they may have to file a U.S. income tax return.

So, how do you know if you are a resident or a non-resident alien? You can calculate that based on two tests.

IRS provides guidance for both tests in this page.

Here comes the core message Exempt Individual

A student is an individual who is temporarily in the United States on an “F, ” “J, ” “M, ” or “Q ” visa for the primary purpose of studying at an academic institution or vocational school, and who substantially complies with the requirements of that visa are exempt from Individual Mandate. 

What does that mean?

If you are in F, J, M or Q visa in USA  and for first 5 years you are considered to be exempt and you will be considered as a non-resident alien.

If there is a change of visa status from F1 to H1B, then you are non-exempt.

  • According to IRS: Individuals in H1B status are never Exempt Individuals

IRS provides multiple examples of residency calculation for tax purpose in this page.


  1. Individual health insurance mandate applies to USA citizens, green card holders and resident aliens
  2. Individual Mandate doesn’t apply to non-resident aliens even if they file taxes
  3. Resident or Non-Resident Tax status is determined by the green card test or substantial presence test.
  4. F, J, M and Q visas holders are exempt from the substantial presence test for 5 years if there is no change in visa status (like F1 to H1B)
  5. Non-resident aliens in F, J, M and Q visa holders are not subject to the individual health insurance mandate.

Does that mean I don’t have to buy Health Insurance?

No way. I strongly recommend each and every person in the USA (visiting, living, studying, etc) to have health insurance coverage.

Health Care costs are very expensive. If you don’t have coverage and happen to have a major health issue, then your entire life savings and your parent’s life savings could be wiped out. If you are a student sponsored by parents for education, then make sure you get coverage through your college or buy a qualified health insurance plan.


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  1. Hello,
    Thank you for the information. Can you please update or clarify the information on this page? The website ( says that:

    “Immigrants with the following statuses qualify to use the Marketplace:

    1. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR/Green Card holder)
    2. Asylee
    3. Refugee
    4. Cuban/Haitian Entrant
    5. Paroled into the U.S.
    6. Conditional Entrant Granted before 1980
    7. Battered Spouse, Child and Parent
    8. Victim of Trafficking and his/her Spouse, Child, Sibling or Parent
    9. Granted Withholding of Deportation or Withholding of Removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention against Torture (CAT)
    10. Individual with Non-immigrant Status, includes worker visas (such as H1, H-2A, H-2B), student visas, U-visa, T-visa, and other visas, and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau
    11. Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
    12. Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
    13. Deferred Action Status (Exception: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is not an eligible immigration status for applying for health insurance)
    14. Lawful Temporary Resident
    15. Administrative order staying removal issued by the Department of Homeland Security
    16. Member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe or American Indian Born in Canada
    17. Resident of American Samoa”

    Item 10 says that “Individual with Non-immigrant Status, includes worker visas (such as H1, H-2A, H-2B), student visas, U-visa, T-visa, and other visas, and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau” would also qualify – do student visas here also include J1 visas?

  2. Hi, I’m on a F1 visa. I have been in the country 3 years. In January 2016 I applied for Medicaid and it was denied because I haven’t been in the country for more than 5 years. Then, I went to the market place and I received subsidy to pay for my premium. Someone told me that I shouldn’t be receiving the subsidy but I called IRS and they said that to be eligible your type of visa is not even asked. Should I be worried about having to return that money?

  3. Hi, I’m on a F1 visa status. Can I apply for obamacare? Will that create an issue in my future immigration filings, if I chose to take obamacare?

  4. Hello,

    I’m a student with J1 visa and I’m here with my wife (J2). Recently, we had a baby, who is going to be a US citizen. Can we use Obamacare or a different kind of program to the baby? Unfortunately, I cannot fond any information about it on the web.

    Thanks a lot,

  5. Hey. My visa status just changed from F1 to H1b effective Oct 1st , 2016 . What type insurance is recommended for me ( ACA compliant ) and where can i get it ?

  6. Hello, I’m an F1 student and just arrived to the USA, can I purchase health insurance from the marketplace if I choose? Thank you, great article

      1. That’s not true. Because when you fill out the form it asks if you are on F1 student visa. I think even if you are in F1 you are eligible for marketplace as long as you have less income.

        *You have to provide your sevis id.

  7. Hello,

    thank you for the article.

    It is not clear to me if a F1 Visa holder and dependents (wife and child) are eligible for obamacare or any other health plan.

    If yes, how is the procedure? at it requires SSN.

    Thank you

  8. Hello,

    What about the F2 visas? Are the eligible for Marketplace( plans? And what about the tax credit they may receive to reduce the monthly premiums? Due to that they may be considered exempt from Individual Shared responsibility, so does it mean they can NOT receive the tax credits?Or they still can receive the monthly tax credits( causing their premiums to be reduced significantly).

    1. I haven’t heard about Mandate for L1/L2. If you are on L1, your company should be giving you health insurance right?

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