Health Insurance for International Students

Students often wonder if they are getting a good deal on the insurance package that they choose. The complex language used on forms related to health insurance for international students can often be a bit confusing.

Thankfully, universities often work with specific health insurance companies to help curb the difficulties that come with selecting a health plan in another country. These firms have access to tailor-made plans that are built with student needs in mind. There are times, however, when students need to find a health insurance policy on their own. In either case, knowing what to consider before making a final choice can be helpful.

Read on to learn how to choose the best health insurance for international students.

Factors Affecting Health Insurance for International Students

Finding the perfect health insurance means striking a balance between several factors. It can be a little tricky at first to find a health insurance policy that checks all of the necessary boxes. However, it is not as complicated as it seems at first. By taking some key elements into consideration while searching, it is possible to narrow the choices down considerably.

Visa

The type of visa that an international student has is a key factor. Some U.S. visas have a health insurance requirement and others do not. F-1 visa holders, for example, are not required by the U.S. government to maintain health insurance. In contrast, J-1 holders must have an active healthcare plan while living in the United States.

H-1B visa holders also have to get a health insurance plan. Health insurance may come from an employer or be supplied by the visa holder, but it is important to note the length of time that it takes to be considered a long-term visitor. H-1B holders are considered short-term visitors until they reach the 6-month mark, at which point they become eligible for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. During the preliminary phase of the H-1B, a private health insurance plan is needed.

Transitions

Another common consideration is how health insurance requirements change when making transitions in life.

If you are a current student looking to apply for an H-1B visa or Green Card, you may need to change your policy from the one provided by your school.

It is also possible that F-1 visa holders who wish to stay and work in the US after graduation will apply for Optional Practical Training, also known as OPT. If granted permission to stay in the US and work, obtaining health insurance will be a necessary step in that process.

There are many types of transitions that international student may go through. Making sure that health insurance issues don’t crop up can be helpful.

School

Many schools will require international students to have health insurance regardless of visa type. In fact, most universities expect their international student body to have some form of health insurance. Some schools are very specific in what they require, as well as deciding on which insurance companies and policies their students must adhere to. Others allow their foreign students to

Checking with student advisors before looking for health insurance independently is crucial. All international students should be aware of the rules that affect their health insurance situation. If maintaining insurance means keeping a scholarship, a student visa, or a place in an educational institution, then understanding how it works is an essential part of life as a student.

Cost and Coverage

Not all health insurance policies are the same. So, figuring out the cost and coverage is the next step. Health insurance companies usually offer several tiers of coverage to international students. Each tier provides additional features and coverage. With greater coverage comes an additional cost, however. So, it is always wise to carefully consider what the insurance policy can offer and what your needs are.

Examples of additional features to expect include travel insurance, passport insurance, lower copays, greater options for doctors and medical centers, eye checkups and glasses, dentistry, and more.

Limitations

While comparing plans, checking for service limitations should also be on the to-do list. Health insurance plans in the U.S. always have a few limitations so making sure that an insurance plan that you are interested in isn’t lacking in a specific area of need is a good idea.

Some questions to ask include:

    • Can I use my international student health insurance in my home country when I visit home?
    • Is maternity covered?
    • How much will I pay when I go to the doctor or hospital (deductible)?
    • What happens if I get into a car accident?

Health Insurance for International Students

Below are some of the best health insurance plans for international students. Each one of the health insurance companies listed below ranks highly in quality of service, good coverage, and fair policy rates. In addition, many of the plans presented here are intentionally structured to match well with school and visa requirements. In addition, these same insurance providers have packages that work for recent grads and any international students who may be entering the workforce for the first time.

Final Thoughts

Remember that before you choose a health insurance plan, it is always good to check with your school international student office, your visa requirements, and any other factor that might impact your decision.

Depending on your situation, you may need specific things from a health insurance plan. In fact, you might not even need to go through the process of getting one yourself. Employers, exchange programs, and schools may provide you with viable options.

Driver’s License Process for International Students

Learning the driver’s license process for international students in the United States can open up a lot of new opportunities. Driving saves time and energy, and it can improve prospects for social life, travel, and many other important aspects of life.

International students who want to drive in the United States will need to apply for a driver’s license from the state that they reside in.

The driver’s license application process for international students is slightly different from state to state. However, there are many things that are common among them, and you should understand the process in your state before applying for a driver’s license.

Understanding the US Driver’s License Process

For international students applying for a driver’s license will follow the same basic steps. While there are differences from state to state, many of the requirements for international students are from federal regulations.

Therefore, foreign students applying for a driver’s license anywhere in the United States will likely need to know the following:

International students should always check with their Designated School Official to gather local driving license information.

Students should also make sure that their information has been uploaded to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

It is also important to wait for approximately two weeks before applying for a license. The I-94 immigration information that students provide when coming into the country needs time to become visible in DMV systems.

Finally, foreign nationals in the United States on extended visas (i.e. international students) will need to apply for with a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Once the preliminary steps have been taken care of, it is time to call the local DMV. Make a list of all the required documents when you call. If you have all of the requested documents, it is a good time to schedule your driver’s license tests.

Unless the DMV in your state recognizes foreign driver’s licenses and offers to transfer your current foreign license to a state document, it will be necessary to schedule a driving and written test.

 

Paperwork

There are several pieces of documentation that need to be submitted, including ID documentation, immigration forms, and sometimes proof of address. These requirements vary from state to state but most will require the following.

Form I-94

Form I-94 is a form that comes from the U.S. Customs office and shows a record of your travel history, including arrival and departure dates. The DMV will need to see this information because driver’s license approvals often depend on how long a foreign applicant will remain in the United States.

Form I-94 is available here.

Form I-20

Another important document that you will need to show is Form I-20. Form I-20 shows your eligibility for a driver’s license based on your status as a ‘nonimmigrant student’.

More information about Form I-20 and what you can use it for can be found here.

Social Security Number (SSN)

Another document that you will need to bring in most cases is your Social Security Number (SSN). Your social security number is not needed by DMVs in every state, however.

For more information, the Social Security Administration website can be found here.

Proof of Residence

As part of the driver’s license process, DMV offices also need to see that you are a resident of the state in which you are applying for the driver’s license. It is not allowed to carry driver’s licenses from multiple states and this is a requirement for all driver’s license applicants.

Accepted documents to show for proof of residence may include:

  • bank records and statement
  • official mail addressed to you at local address
  • rental/lease agreements
  • mortgage bill
  • school documentation
  • insurance documentation

Passport and Visa Information

Finally, you will need to provide your passport and copies of your current student visa as proof of ID. Simply providing your passport is usually sufficient to fulfill this requirement as the DMV officer will make any necessary photocopies at the DMV office.

Driving and Written Test Requirements

If the DMV determines that it will not accept the foreign driver’s license as an equivalent, a driving and written test will be required. These tests can usually be scheduled on the same day, but not always.

The written portion of the evaluation will test your working knowledge of the local driving laws, signs, and procedures relating to accidents and other emergency situations.

The driving test will help the DMV determine your readiness for driving on US roads and usually involves taking a short drive with an instructor, following directions as you drive.

Once complete, the driver’s license process has come to an end and the DMV will provide an answer quite quickly in most cases.

Regional Differences

Before applying for a driver’s license in any state, it is important to contact the local DMV office nearest you to learn what requirements exist for international students.

While most states follow similar rules and regulations regarding international driving licenses, there can be significant differences as well.

Final Thoughts

Driving in the U.S. can certainly bring a lot of positive elements into your life as an international student. Driving in the United States may seem daunting at first. However, the process for getting a driver’s license is easier than you might think. Just be sure to collect the necessary paperwork and research the driving rules in your state and you’ll be behind the wheel in no time.

Related Questions

How long should international students wait before applying for a US driver’s license? 

It is best for international students to wait for at least 10-14 days from arrival before applying for a driver’s license from their state. It can take up to 10 working days for immigration systems to update international student information.

Is there an international driver’s license for foreign students?

In most US states, students cannot drive legally with an international driving license or an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Students should apply for a state driver’s license and follow the processes outlined by local DMV offices.

Taxes for International Students

If you are an international student studying in the US, or you are considering becoming one, it is helpful to know how tax laws work for foreign students in the United States.

For a full list of rules and requirements regarding US tax laws affecting international students, further reading on the IRS website can be found, here. However, we’ll summarize the main points for you here to save you some time.

Tax Requirements for International Students

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines international students as both nonresident aliens and resident aliens.

Depending on your visa type, you may fall into either category at the time of filing your taxes. The IRS outlines a separate set of rules for resident and nonresident aliens. However, the IRS also views international students through a different lens than other types of nonresident aliens. Therefore, some unique conditions apply to international students.

As such, to understand which income sources to report, as well as what can be deducted, you must first be sure about your tax filing and visa status.

Income Reporting Requirements

One of the first things international students should know about reporting requirements is that all international students and scholars should file. Even if they have made very little US-sourced income.

International students should file and pay their taxes if:

  • they have received a grant or scholarship that is considered taxable,
  • or if they received any income from work or any other source.

An important note about capital gains tax for international students:

International students in the United States for longer than one year should file and pay taxes if they have made money in the stock market, or by selling any other physical property (such as a boat, house, or car). The IRS enforces a 30% capital gains tax.

Many international students do not have to file taxes if:

  • their income is from another country,
  • they earn interest from a bank or investment account,
  • or if they received a grant or scholarship that is tax free.

It is important to note that there is no minimum income trigger that the IRS uses for international students. That means all earning count towards the filing requirement, even those that are very small.

Treaties and Special Circumstances

Apart from the general set of rules outlined by the IRS for how international students should be taxed, there are also many treaties and special circumstances that can be considered.

Most notably, the United States maintains several treaties with countries around the world. Each of those treaties outlines separate set of rules for taxation of nationals of those countries.

It is always a clever idea to check the list of treaties before seeking tax advice. Most sources of information that you will find will give generalized information that may not pertain to your situation.

Start with page 19 of the Treaties document from the IRS and look for ‘Students and Apprentices’.

Specific Taxation Rules Depending on Visa Type

Depending on your field of study, level of education, and time spent in the United States, you may have one of several student visa types that exist.

The three most common student visas are F1, J1, and M1, though many students also have H-1B visas and Green Cards. Tax rules for each are different and knowing the differences can save you a lot of time, money, and energy.

Here are some general rules for each of the listed visa types:

  • F-1 – This visa is meant for academic studies. Most international students have an F-1 Visa, and these students are allowed to do limited, part-time work. The visa is a nonimmigrant visa and the applicable tax rules apply.
  • J-1 – This visa is meant to provide international students with an opportunity to complete paid training in their field of study. It is a nonimmigrant visa and shares tax rules with F-1 status visas.
  • M-1 – This visa type is for international nonimmigrants who wish to attend training programs or vocational schools in the US. M-1 holders are not allowed to work in the US, and therefore do not pay taxes.
  • H-1B & Green Card – International students with immigrant visas, whether they hold an H-1B Visa, a Green Card, or are transitioning from an H-1B to a Green Card, must follow the same tax rules as US citizens. Students with these types of visas include but are not limited to graduate students and professionals continuing their education. Resident aliens must report all earned income.

Final Thoughts

The US tax system is certainly complex, but it does not have to be difficult to understand. The first step is to learn how international students with your particular visa type are taxed. Then, check to see if you are exempt from any of the rules associated with that visa type by checking the treaties document on the IRS website.  Once you are sure about your tax situation, it is time to decide how you would like to file your taxes.

Related Questions

When should I file my taxes in the US as an international student?  

International students should file taxes before the annual tax deadline. Usually, students should send their tax returns by May 17th. Sometimes, there are extensions that can push the date back.

Can international students file their taxes for free? 

Yes. International students can file their taxes for free. There are a number of resources available. International students can download and fill forms directly from the IRS website, or use a tax preparation service that offers free services.

Do international students need a Social Security Number to file taxes?

International students must have their Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) when filing taxes.

Best Student Loans for International Students

Student Loans for International Students

The decision to study in the United States can be a difficult one. There are so many things to take into consideration to successfully make the move to the US and succeed at school.

Figuring out how to pay for university is one of the many puzzles to solve but getting an international student loan might be easier than you think.

Can I get a student loan as an international student?

Yes, you can get an international loan as an international student.  You have several options to apply for an international education loan. Many of the available options are based on visa status and the desired school.

 

How can I get a loan to study in the US?

The process that goes into getting a student loan as an international student can look different from person to person. However, the biggest differences usually come down to whether a borrower in an eligible noncitizen.

Eligible noncitizen options

Depending on your status within the United States, you may qualify for student loans as an eligible noncitizen. Eligible noncitizens can apply for the same types of student loans that local students access.

These student loans include both private and government loans. For private loans, lenders should be contacted directly as many have unique rates and qualification requirements. Eligible noncitizens applying for federal student aid should open an account at FAFSA and follow the steps provided.

Examples of eligible noncitizens are:

  • Green Card holders
  • refugees and asylum seekers

Other noncitizen options

Many international students do not fall into the eligible noncitizen category. Fortunately, there are many other options for education loans for international students.

Foreign applicants not in the eligible noncitizen category should look at their private student loan options. There are many lenders who will provide a loan to cover education expenses for foreign students as they study in the US.

Each lender offers different rates and repayment terms. The various private student loan providers also lack a universal standard for how they accept applicants. Most lenders, for example, require a cosigner while others do not.

With a Cosigner

International students applying for a personal student loan with a cosigner option will have the “pick of the litter” when it comes to which lender suits their needs the best. As long as the cosigner has a credit rating above 640, the loan should have a reasonable interest rate and repayment term.

Without a Cosigner

Education loans offered without the need for a cosigner are few and far between. However, they do exist, and we have a couple of favorites to introduce you to.

Supported Schools

An important part of applying for education loans is to make sure that the loan that you are applying to is applicable for the school that you wish to attend. Many loan programs will have a ‘covered schools’ list and it is always good to check it before committing time to the application process.

Interstride’s International Student Loan Picks

As there are many options for foreign students looking to finance their education, we have decided to provide a list of some of our favorites.

#1 – MPower Financing

MPower Financing is one of the few lenders that do not require a cosigner. In fact, the lender doesn’t require collateral, or a credit history in the United States, either. MPower supports more than 350 schools in North America and offers a full scholarship program as well. The student-focused lending approach makes this lender quite popular.

#2 – Ascent

Ascent Funding is another top choice for international students looking for student loan options. Ascent works with MPower to provide loans with and without cosigner requirements. The lender also offers loan options that are either based on credit history or ‘future potential’ which is the model used by MPower Financing. In addition to student loans for eligible schools, Ascent also offers loans for training programs and career development education.

#3 – Prodigy Finance

Prodigy Finance is another top-rated lending firm for international students. Prodigy Finance focuses on graduate studies and provides loans based on a ‘future potential’ model similar to MPower and Ascent. In Prodigy’s case, however, the predictive credit model used to determine credit worthiness is a bit more complex. Students do not need a cosigner or a credit history in the US to apply for a loan from Prodigy Finance.

#4 – Discover

Many consider Discover as one of the better choices for international student credit card providers. As a lender, Discover offers international students with many choices depending on the type of study they are planning. Discover offers student loans specific to undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as degrees in business, health, law, and much more. To take advantage of Discover’s student loans, a cosigner or Green Card is needed.

Related Questions

How do international student loans work?

International student loans work the same way traditional student loans do. The borrower goes through an application process that determines eligibility, credit worthiness, and many other factors. International students can apply for a student loan with or without a cosigner, and loans are available through private and government lending programs.

Can international students get student loans without a cosigner?

The short answer is, yes. Foreign students can get student loans without a cosigner. There are some private lenders who will verify a student’s eligibility based on their own set of rules. If an applicant passes the application process, a loan is granted. Getting student loans without a cosigner through both FAFSA and private lenders is also possible for international students with a Green Card.

Best Credit Cards for International Students [and How to Get One]

Credit Cards for International Students

For international students studying in the US, establishing a line of credit for the first time can be quite difficult. Any international student who has applied for student loans understands this fact well.

Applying for credit cards often proves challenging as most financial institutions require a credit history as well as a Social Security Number as part of the application process. That means international students must solve two main problems: one of identity and another of credit worthiness.

Interstride has decided to make the process of choosing the best credit cards for international students a bit easier by providing a starter list of cards from which to begin the search.

Read on to learn how to access the United States credit system and see which cards might be the best for your needs. 

Credit Card Application Requirements

Whichever credit card you select, it is important to understand the standard application process. Credit card issuers (i.e. banks and other financial institutions) need to know who they are doing business with.

For that reason, applicants must show proof of their identity. For international students, that proof can come in many forms. Other common application requirements for credit cards are proof of address/residence, and proof of income.

International students can sometimes have difficulty satisfying application requirements due to their temporary nature of their status within the country.

Credit Card Application Options for International Students

Fortunately, there are a few workarounds for credit application challenges. Before looking at alternatives, however, be sure that the alternatives are needed.

Is An SSN Possible?

Depending on an international student’s status within the country, it is very possible that they can obtain a Social Security Number, also known as an SSN.

According to the IRS, most student and academic Visas allow for employment. Many nonimmigrant visas, including F-1, J-1, Q-1, M-1, or Q2, fall into this category. These Visa holders may apply for a regular SSN.

An ITIN Can Help

International students who fall outside of the above-mentioned categories can still apply for a credit card. However, they will need to apply to the IRS for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

An ITIN is essentially an SSN for international guests. The number of digits is the same and the number comes in the same format. To apply for an ITIN, international students need to apply at the IRS using Form W-7.

Best Credit Card Features for International Students

International students on the lookout for a new (or first) credit card in the US should pay attention to a couple of key factors. The best credit cards for international students offer perks and bonuses aimed at student needs.

Top credit card options also allow users to apply for a line of credit with or without a Social Security Number. Each card is quite different in what it expects from and offers to its cardholders. So, it is always wise to do a bit of homework before making a final decision.

Top Features for International Student Credit Cards:

  • No, or low annual fees
  • No international transaction fees
  • Low, or 0% initial purchase APR
  • Cashback programs
  • Travel rewards and miles
  • Lower rates for academic achievement!

Interstride’s Best International Student Credit Cards

Here are some of our favorite credit cards for international students in no particular order.

#1 – Petal

Petal Card provides international students with a fantastic starting point int he world of credit. Not only does Petal forgo the usual SSN and ITIN requirements, but the company also creates a ‘money score’ for new applicants to determine credit worthiness.

That means international students with no previous credit should have no difficulty in getting the Petal Card as long as they have income, and their expenses are low.

 

#2 – Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students is the perfect solution for many international students. This credit card offers a low APR, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and much more.

To get this card, students do not need an SSN and there is no credit needed to apply. Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students makes application decisions based on school, income, expenditures, etc.

 #3 – Discover it® Student Card

Discover it Student Card is another fantastic option for international students. While only international students with an SSN may apply for this card, it is one of the better ones on the list.

Some of the notable features of this card are no annual fees, no foreign transaction fees, a cashback bonus for good grades, and a solid cashback rewards program which gets better with time.

#4 – Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Journey Student rewards from Capital One is yet another good choice for international students. Journey offers a solid cashback program on spending, a $60 streaming bonus for on-time payments, no foreign transaction fees, and accurate credit tracking through the available app.

To apply, students must use an SSN or an ITIN.

#5 – Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

As with the other options on this list, the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card is built with students in mind. International students can apply using an ITIN and there are many benefits that come from this offer from Chase.

An initial $50 bonus starts things off. Good Standing Rewards, credit line increases, and no annual fees adds to the reasons international students might be interested in the Chase Freedom Student card.

Final Thoughts

Whether in the US for a long time, or just a year or two, there is no question that a credit card can make a world of difference. Students are able to order their materials online, shop for food, pay bills, and support themselves in a world that is increasingly dependent on digital payments and credit.

Choosing the right card can help in many ways, just as choosing one that doesn’t compliment student needs can hinder a student’s financial progress and success. New credit card users especially should take care that their credit cards add value to their lives.