International Students

Last reviewed: 1/4/2023

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 to enroll in The Columbia Plan.

International students are defined as any enrolled student that is not a US Citizen or Permanent Resident.  All international students, regardless of the number of enrolled credits, will be enrolled in the Columbia Plan.

We encourage students to contact the Columbia Health Insurance Office with questions:

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 our health care system may then be unable to access care using these limited non-Columbia plans.

This requirement 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.

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.

On a case-by-case basis, international students may be considered for an exception to this requirement when covered by a US-based group health insurance plan (for example, a US-based, employer-sponsored, ACA-Compliant group plan).

In order to request an exception, an international student must first document they are covered by a plan that meets the one potential exception described above. Once confirmed the plan is of an eligible category, the plan must then meet all of the Columbia University exception requirements.  All exemption requests are considered though no approval is guaranteed.  All determinations regarding exceptions are made by the Student Health Insurance Office on the Morningside Campus and shall be considered final.

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 campus for more information.

Students should talk with their financial aid advisor regarding any impact. Funded graduate students already have coverage for the health insurance plan costs 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.

Yes, the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan works with on-campus services. 

Students’ care begins on-campus, so you must begin medical or mental health care from Medical Services or Counseling and Psychological Services*. Providers will give students a referral for any necessary off-campus services.
*Unless using urgent care, the emergency room, or if the provider you are seeing is more than 50 miles from campus.

Yes. On-campus Medical Services and Counseling & Psychological Services providers speak multiple languages and we also offer a 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 referral coordinator is also available to assist in locating an off-campus provider with a specific language request. Contact the Student Health Insurance Office at [email protected] or 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 student 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.