Health Insurance for Foreign Visitors & Residents

Parent Q&A

Healthcare for immigrant parent Oct 22, 2018 (4 responses below)
buying health insurance for a minor with F1 visa status Sep 25, 2017 (2 responses below)
Health Insurance for non-citzen grandparents Jul 29, 2016 (2 responses below)
  • Hello! We've recently moved my father-in-law to the US from Asia, as he is showing signs of Alzheimers and needs care. If there is anyone who has any advice regarding how we might secure health insurance for him and/or a recommendation for an immigration attorney, as well as any general advice about having a grand/parent with dementia living with you, that would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    I work at Asian Health Services in Oakland Chinatown - I recommend reaching out to the Member Services Dept (or any of the clinics) to help with reviewing health insurance options and scheduling to see a doctor. We offer language concordant services for many Asian languages. The Alzheimer's Association has great online resources for people with dementia and their families, as well as many support programs locally - As for immigration attorneys, I know of Bay Area Legal Aid - Good luck to you and your family.


    Is he a US citizen or has residency? 

    In any case, the  most important issue is insurance....medical?

    Living with a person with dementia is pretty exhausting and sad. Yes, you want to do the best for your parents but you have to set up a care system.

    You can email me in private and we can talk. The last 6 month I have been living with my 63 year old sister in law that had develop some dementia and my 82 year old mother. I could tell you what has been useful or not.


    I just did this with my 99 year old grandma from Canada. First, good news, in CA undocumented immigrants are eligible for Covered California, so if you can afford it, you can sign him up for health insurance right away. I did it in January during open enrollment, so that was easy. I think at this time of year you have to show that he moved, which will require something with old address and something with new address. We got Kaiser and it is $900/month. Totally ridiculous.... so the other option is start putting money aside for medical costs instead of paying that (i haven't tried an immigration attorney - obv if you can get him qualified for MediCare that would be fantastic). Definitely have him complete an advance health directive and DNR form (if that is what he wants). Kaiser is helpful on those things but you can find the forms online as well.

    You might check with your employer and your partner's employer to see if perhaps he could be covered. My gma was not covered by my employer, but worth a try. My employer does have an employee benefit of an eldercare referral service but that seems to be about it.

    As to general advice, not really, except take/ask for help. Fortunately my brother lives nearby and is taking her for one weekend/month to give us breaks. After first time of two nights, I said we need 3 nights each time and after a few months, I said we needed a week! (not every month, but at that point). I have also asked other family members to come stay with her for a couple hours at a time. And fortunately at this point she is fine on her own for a few hours too. It's been a strain on my marriage so watch out for that and try to keep communication open. We can't do it much longer - trying to figure out a new plan.

    Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about it! 

  • Healthcare for immigrant parent

    (4 replies)

    Hi everyone, I am looking for insights from people who either have experience and/or knowledge in the area of finding adequate healthcare coverage for immigrant parents who are applying for a green card and are already in the U.S. What did you do for healthcare before your parent had a change in status to waiting for green card and also during? I find traveler’s insurance to be very limited, and our parent does have some chronic conditions that need to be managed. I am considering just finding a primary care physician that has a lower cost option for people paying out of pocket since for sure our parent will need some meds. Does anyone know if such PCPs exist? 

    I also read that even after receipt of the green card, immigrant parents will not be eligible for Medicare for another 5 years, but I am hoping that for this period, we could still qualify for Obamacare (unless that goes away) or maybe MediCal, if that’s an option? Please let me know your experiences and what you ended up doing for a parent who DID need healthcare (i.e. not just buying emergency insurance). Thanks!

    Here is information from the state of California about immigrants and eligibility for different public health insurance programs.

    However, I strongly urge you to speak to an immigration legal services program about your question because you will want to understand the current rules about "public charge", the affidavit of support you (or another family member) will be signing for your parents (basically saying you will help make sure they don't become public charges), and what may be coming regarding those rules. The Trump administration recently proposed new regulations that would make it grounds for deportation/revocation of a green card if the green card holder uses certain public benefits, including possibly Medicaid.  This new proposal is NOT the law of the land yet and likely will not become law, but you probably want to understand more about what it could mean and which programs it considers public benefits.   I don't mean to scare you at all, and this shouldn't stop anyone from getting needed health care, but you want to be informed.

    A really great option for your parent would be to visit a Community Health Center. I consult to these organizations, so I'm biased, but they are an amazing and underappreciated resource. Basically, they provide extremeley high level, integrated care -- a lot more than what's available in a traditional doctor's office -- that is targeted towards folks who have Medicaid and Medicare. They receive special federal grants to provide more complex and integrated services. Even though it's targeted to those audiences, they still see everybody. For people with no insurance and with low incomes -- a retired parent would definitely qualify -- they provide the same services on a sliding scale based on income. Usually the fee comes out to be about what you could expect to pay for a private insurance copy, $20-$50 per visit. It's an easy way to get care while you are waiting for the Medicare to come through, and you could continue getting care there once the parent does have Medicare if they like it. You could also purchase insurance for this person (Obamacare insurance marketplace), but I don't know if they'll get a subsidy given their immigration status. The big Community Health Centers in Berkeley include LifeLong, La Clinica de la Raza, and Asian Health Care. If you don't live in berkeley, just search "<CityName> Federally qualified health center" and you'll find a community health center near you. Good luck.

    I know that elder legal immigrants can be covered by Medi-Cal if they are eligible based on their assets and income.  You could go through Covered California's portal to apply, or, just to be sure that is the right path, you first could contact Legal Assistance for Seniors, a nonprofit organization in Oakland that provides counseling and assistance re naturalization process, Medi-Cal and other issues.  Here's the relevant web page: 

  • I have a friend whose brother is a middle school student with F1 visa status.  His private school doesn't have health insurance for international students like him, and his old health insurance plan is expiring soon, without the option to renew.  Does anyone currently have health insurance purchased for a minor with F1 visa status, or does anyone have experience with this ?  Could you please give me some information as to which plans/company are reliable/credible ?  

    Thank you for your help.  

    Is the child from a foreign country? Then I would first look for options in that country, typically a health insurance that covers one year abroad,including the U.S.
    Best ,

    I am the international student coordinator at Orinda Academy. We usually use ISO for student health insurance.  The number is 800-244-1180 and the website is

    Janet Harrison

  • Does anyone have any suggestions for getting short term insurance for non-citizen grandparents? They are coming to help with childcare for 2-3 months at a time, but it might be difficult to find something for them, as they are 64 and 70 years old, from South Korea.

    How about getting travel insurance? We used World Nomads for our trip around the world. You can look at what's covered and get a quote online. Good luck! 

    The non-citizen grandparents could look into Travel Insurance which typically comes with a health insurance component. They will likely have to purchase the policy from a company that sells travel insurance in South Korea.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving back to Italy; when to cancel US insurance?

June 2006

I'm an Italian citizen with permanent residence status. I currently have health insurance coverage in the U.S., which I pay for ($300-400 per month). I am moving back to Italy and want to know how and when I will be legally covered in Italy. It is in my best financial interest to discontinue the expensive American health insurance plan ASAP after my return to Italian soil. How can I get reliable information about this? Any advice from fellow Italian citizens would be greatly appreciated. grazie mil

I am an Italian citizien living here in berkeley. obviously I have a private insurance and as for everybody I am constantly fighting to have my medical bill claim paid by the insurance which by the way is apparently one of the best (Blue shield of California, ppo). I would interrupt the USA coverage as soon as you go back in Italy. First, as you well know you don't need to be insured to be treated and second even if you will need in the future a private consult for which you will have to pay, I doubt your american insurance will accept to cover you. If you want to get a private insurance get an italian one that works on the territory. One of the last good resource left in our country is the avability for everyone of the medical coverage. let's enjoy till it will last!!!. have fun back home Cristiana

Health coverage for 6 mos. for visiting parents?

May 2004

Hi there, My parents are coming to visit the United States. They will be staying with me for almost 6 months and they wanted to be covered Health wise in case of a major medical emergency. They don\x92t have any pre-established condition, but they are over 60 years old (60 and 64 to be exact). I\x92ve contacted all the major health insurance companies like Blue Cross, Keiser, etc\x85 but they all require a social security numbers (which, as turists my parents don't have) to provide insurance or a period of 3 month (sometimes 6 month) wait for coverage. And\x85 boy\x85 they are expensive! I ran out of options and I am hoping someone out there has a great idea or a reliable company that they could refer me to. Thanks in advance! Adriana

I work in the industry and there aren't that many short-term policies out there beyond what you described. I recently saw an analysis of short-term plans and you are basically looking at Blue Cross, Blue Shield, and Health Net. Although there are notable plan variations between them in terms of deductibles, coinsurance, and prescription drugs, there are minimal premium differentials. You can also try going to,, or Those are three you can trust. Blue Shield is the overall leader in the short-term market, but Health Net relaunched its QuickNet plan and is trying to make headway. I am surprised you can't find anything that will cover the full six months - I would think most would cover that time period. The ss# issue - hmmm, that will be extremely difficult to get past. The last alternative I can think of is to treat your situation by looking for ''travel insurance'' coverage and do your research based on travel or tourist coverage. Good luck! Lily

Health insurance for student's spouse arriving 4 months pregnant

Feb 2004

What available health insurance is there for spouse which has a green card (immigrant Visa status)? She is arriving 4th month pregnant; I understood insurance is difficult due to ''pre-existing conditions''. I understood there are some state-funded for the low-income (MediCal? Alameda alliance?), but it might be problematic for a new immigrant, esp. with existing pregnancy. I'm a PhD in UC Berkeley, with a US nationality, but their advisor offered no help at all. Thanks!! Ran

Dear Ran- As a UCB graduate student, you can purchase health insurance for your wife through University Health Services in the Tang Center: You should contact UHS Insurance to find out if any of the plans have restrictions for a pre-existing pregnancy: (510) 642-5700 Good luck and congratulations! Anon