University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

J Visa

Health Insurance

Health care in the U.S. is complicated and very expensive.  One illness or injury can financially devastate you and your family (one day in the hospital can cost well over $10,000). International scholars and their dependents are not eligible to use U.S. government or Minnesota-paid public assistance programs. They must have health insurance to pay for health care. Health insurance is designed to prevent depletion of your savings if an accident or illness occurs.

J-1 Insurance Requirement: J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must carry health insurance to meet the requirements of their visa status under regulations of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Health insurance must be maintained from the day you arrive in the U.S. through the entire duration of your J-1 program. If you willfully fail to carry health insurance for yourself or your dependents after your program effective date, your J-1 visa sponsor must end your J-1 program and report this to the U.S. Department of State.

The University of Minnesota (UMN) requires all international scholars and accompanying dependents to purchase the university’s insurance.  J-1 Scholars are required to have either the University Employee Benefits Health Insurance, if employed by the U of M, or the U of MN Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP), if not employed by the U of M.

If the J-1 Scholar does not purchase the University of Minnesota’s insurance for themselves and their dependent(s), the scholar will not be eligible for ISSS Services after arrival at the University.  These services include:

  • Travel/Reentry Signature
  • DS-2019 Extension
  • Dependent DS-2019 Request
  • Financial Update
  • Occasional Lecture and Short-Term Consultation Authorization

ISSS advisers will be checking to make sure that all J-1 scholars and their dependents have met this requirement when taking in requests for the above services.

The SHBP not only provides you with excellent coverage but also fulfills the J-1 insurance requirement. Read the following for details about J-1 insurance requirement, the SHBP, and exceptions to the SHBP insurance requirement.

Coverage under SHBP is guaranteed for incoming international scholars and dependents from the day they arrive at the University of Minnesota and have their documents validated by International Student and Scholar Services. Coverage continues as long as the scholar meets the Boynton Health Service criteria for eligibility. For more information on SHBP or questions, go to the Boynton Health Service’s website , or contact the Boynton insurance office at 612-624-0627.

DO NOT purchase other health insurance from your government or private insurance providers; otherwise you will pay for two insurance policies. Your payment for the SHBP will allow you to be seen at Boynton Health Service for most services at no cost and some services at a reduced cost.

To learn more about the U.S. Health Care system, Insurance Policies available through the University of Minnesota and the Student Health Benefit Plan, take the U.S. Health Care and Insurance System Workshop available online.

Exceptions to University of Minnesota Insurance Requirement

The following two groups of J-1s are not required to enroll in the SHBP:

  • J-1s whose J-1 programs will last 31 days or less are eligible to purchase SHBP insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents, but they are not required to purchase it. If they do not purchase the SHBP, they must purchase other health insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents that meet the minimum coverage required by the law.
  • You may be able to have the requirement waived if you are insured through a US-based employer-sponsored group health plan.

J-1 Scholars who are hosted by coordinate campus departments (Duluth, Crookston, or Morris) are also required to purchase SHBP insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents.

Letter from Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration
On July 31, 2008, a letter from Robert Jones, Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration, was sent to the DDS list reminding departments that the U of MN requires all international scholars to enroll in the University sponsored health insurance. See the letter by clicking here.

University Employee Benefits Health Insurance:
Scholars employed by the University of Minnesota may receive health insurance as part of their employee benefits plan. Scholars can contact their UMN hosting department to inquire about health insurance benefits. Generally, if scholars receive a salary from the University for three months or more at 75% time employment (30 hours per week) or more, they and their eligible dependents are eligible for health insurance through the Employee Benefits Department. If scholars receive a salary from the University for less than three months or at 50-74% time employment (20-29 hours per week), generally, they may purchase at their own expense the University health insurance.

Employee Benefits insurance meets the requirements of the J-1 regulations. For additional information, scholars can call the Employee Benefits office at 612-624-9090 or check their website.

Possible Delay in University Employee Health Insurance Coverage: The University Employee health insurance plan goes into effect the first of the month after the hiring date. You must purchase another plan that provides the required coverage from your date of arrival in the U.S. until your Employee insurance begins. The SHBP insurance can be purchased for this period. See the SHBP section above for more information.