Graduation season is around the corner! Many F-1 visa students are graduating in May and June! This means that their immigration status will transition from F-1 visa to OPT, but that also means that they might face some difficulties regarding their health insurance.

After graduating, many international students use their OPT (Optical Practical Training) status to apply for internships in the United States. Some might even apply for an H-1B work visa through their employers. In most cases, students who come to the United States for school use the student health insurance provided by their school. After graduating, they will no longer be able to use their student health insurance since they are no longer a full-time student. At most, you would be able to use it for one more quarter or the summer after you graduate.

It’s pretty risky for international students to not have health insurance. If you’ve already started working and receiving income, you can get fined if you are unable to provide proof of health insurance when filing your taxes. Since many universities such as USC, UCLA, and UCI have quality medical centers on campus, many international students might not know how health insurance works outside of school.

Health insurance is not provided by all companies, and some require you to work at least one to two months, or after a certain probation period, before you can get covered to begin using the company health insurance. If you cannot find a suitable job, or if you are looking for a new job, health insurance can become a really big issue.

Contact your student health center early

If you haven’t secured a job by the time you graduate or know that the company you will be working for will not be providing health insurance, make sure to contact your school’s health center immediately! Some universities will extend your health insurance and allow you to use it for an extra quarter. For other universities, they might ask you to pay some fees to continue using your health insurance for a few extra months.

At USC, students who graduate will no longer be able to use their health insurance after graduation—not even the summer after they graduate. If they want to continue to use it, they would have to pay an extra $200 fee to have their health insurance active until August. At UC Berkeley, graduating students will have their health plans terminated on August 14, but you can ask to extend your health insurance by July 15 for your health insurance to stay active for an extra semester.

Enroll into health insurance within 60 days

Staying insured under your school is not a long term solution. If your new job does not provide health insurance, then it is highly recommended for you to apply for health insurance. Please note:

1) In the United States, you can’t just buy health insurance whenever you want. You can only enroll and purchase health insurance during open enrollment period, which is from November to January every year. However, if your student health insurance is going to be terminated, then you qualify for special enrollment, and you’ll have 60 days from the termination date to enroll into another insurance plan. If you miss this deadline, then you’ll have to wait until the open enrollment period in November to apply.

2) Do you have a Social Security Number (SSN)? There were rumors saying that an OPT student who didn’t have a SSN could not buy health insurance. That is not true! Regardless of whether you have a SSN or not, just make sure to enroll and purchase in another health insurance plan within 60 days after your insurance is terminated. Contact KCAL ASAP to discuss your options and take a look at the various health plans!

Make sure to plan ahead to have a smooth transition out of college!