International Students

Last reviewed: 12/08/2023

**Please note the options and requirements for International students have been updated for the 2023-2024 academic year. **

Navigating the health care system in the United States can be complex. To help ensure that international students have access to the highest quality care on- and off-campus, Columbia University requires all international students, regardless of the number of enrolled credits, to enroll in The Columbia Plan

J visa holders

U.S. government regulations mandate that all J-1 visa holders and their J-2 dependents have health and accident insurance during the entire length of their stay.  Accordingly, international students on a J visa are not eligible to waive The Columbia Plan.

All other visa holders

Non-J visa holders may be eligible for a waiver. Please see the request a waiver page for more information and learn how submit a request

Eligible students are strongly encouraged to review benefits on alternate plans before purchasing the alternate plan(s) to ensure coverage is comparable or better than The Columbia Plan. Students may use the compare your coverage tool help their planning.  Please note Columbia is not responsible if a student purchases a plan and the waiver is subsequently denied.  

For questions, please contact the Columbia Health Student Health Insurance Office:

John Jay Hall, 3rd Floor
[email protected]

Inadequate health insurance can result in catastrophic health outcomes and extraordinary costs, as well as unexpected barriers to achieving academic success and scholarly pursuits. 

International students are frequently targeted by companies offering lower rates for substandard plans that are described in marketing materials as comparable. Students unfamiliar with the US health care system may then be unable to access care or be subject to very high out of pocket costs for using these limited non-Columbia plans. 

The Columbia Plan reinforces Columbia’s commitment to protecting the health of the student community through access to high-quality health services and provision of insurance coverage to supplement on-campus resources, with protections on out of pocket costs.  Additionally, the Columbia plan is designed to support students throughout the United States and when traveling abroad. 

Upon registering for classes, students are automatically charged the Columbia Health and Related Services Fee and enrolled in The Columbia Plan.

Students receive an email providing a link to confirm their enrollment in The Columbia Plan. Do not ignore this message. 

See step-by-step instructions for confirming enrollment in the Columbia Plan.

International students holding F visas may be eligible, if they have a health insurance plan that meets University requirements. Please review the Request a Waiver page for more details. 

Note: Some programs whose students are considered short-term visitors to campus may be eligible for an exemption to the requirement.  Please contact the Student Health Insurance Office on the Morningside Campus for more information. 

Students should talk with their financial aid advisor regarding any impact.

Funded graduate students already have coverage for the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan in their financial aid package.

In most other cases, financial aid can be used toward paying the health insurance premium and the Columbia Health and Related Services Fee

Students’ care begins on-campus. You must first see a medical or mental health care from Medical Services or Counseling and Psychological Services*. On-campus providers will give students a referral for any necessary off-campus services.   

Be sure to review the referral requirements and consult with Columbia Health before receiving non-emergency off-campus care.  Students are responsible for any costs associated with accessing care without an appropriate referral before the services are provided. 

*Unless using urgent care, the emergency room, or if the provider you are seeing is more than 50 miles from campus. 

Yes. Medical Services and Counseling and Psychological Services providers speak multiple languages and we also offer translation services.   

Additionally, the Aetna network has providers that speak many languages. Students can search for a provider that speaks a preferred language using the DocFind© feature on the Aetna Student Health website.

The Columbia Health team is also available to assist in locating an off-campus provider with a specific language request. Email the Student Health Insurance Office or call 212-854-3286 for more information. 

In addition to comprehensive coverage within the U.S., the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan provides global coverage. This benefit is unique to the Columbia Plan and designed specifically to support our students. 

We encourage students to learn more about this benefit as well as how the plan will support health and well-being while studying at Columbia. Contact the Student Health Insurance Office to discuss the specifics of using coverage outside of New York. 

Unlike domestic part-time students, international part-time students are often focused solely on their studies and are not working in positions that provide health insurance. As a result, part-time international students are not likely to have the level of coverage that truly supports their potential health needs while at Columbia. 

No. Premiums are billed by semester, so students graduating in December will only be charged for the fall term and coverage will end on December 31. 

No. Columbia does not keep the health insurance premiums. The University collects the premium and sends it to Aetna, the insurance provider. We use this system because it allows students to pay for health insurance using available financial aid options.