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Can I buy visitor insurance after arriving in the US? 

Can I buy visitor insurance after arriving in the US?

When planning a trip to the US, one essential consideration is health insurance coverage. While it is ideal to purchase visitor insurance before your journey, there are visitors who wish to buy a policy after their arrival. Let us explore whether it is possible to buy visitor insurance after you have already arrived and what steps to take in such situations. 

Understanding visitor insurance 

Visitor insurance, also known as travel medical insurance or visitor health insurance, is designed to provide financial protection for international travelers during their stay in the US. It covers medical expenses incurred due to any new illness or injury, offering comfortable stay and access to quality healthcare services. Having visitor insurance is particularly important because healthcare costs in the US are among the highest in the world. Some plans may cover trip-related coverage, but it is recommended to review the policy before purchasing. 

Is it possible to buy visitor insurance after arrival? 

It is possible to purchase visitor insurance even after your arrival in the US, but it might come with challenges and limitations. Insurance providers understand that travel plans can change, emergencies can happen, and visitors might forget to arrange coverage in advance. Therefore, they often allow travelers to buy insurance even after they have arrived in the country. However, it is always recommended to buy coverage before coming to the US. After you apply for insurance, the earliest the plan can begin is the next day. Keeping this in mind, the earlier you apply for a plan, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are protected.  

Why should you consider buying an insurance plan before arrival? 

Purchasing insurance before arriving in the US is a prudent choice for several compelling reasons. Here are five key considerations: 

  • Immediate coverage: When you buy insurance before arrival, your coverage typically starts as soon as you enter the country. This means you are protected from day one, safeguarding you against unexpected events from the moment you set foot in the US. This is especially crucial as accidents or illnesses can happen at any time. 
  • Financial protection: Medical expenses in the US can be exorbitant, and without insurance, you might be forced to pay out-of-pocket. By having insurance in place before arrival, you ensure that you have financial protection against high healthcare costs. This can include coverage for doctor’s visits, hospital stays, prescription medications, and more, depending on your policy. 
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions: Though plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, some insurance plans provide coverage for acute onset of pre-existing medical conditions.  The benefit amount changes per the age of the insured. By purchasing insurance in advance, you can be covered by the insurance in the event of a medical emergency,  and you need medical attention. This can ensure you that you are covered for the sudden flare-up of pre-existing conditions when you arrive. 
  • Worry-free travel: Knowing that you have insurance coverage from the moment you land in the US provides peace of mind. You do not have to worry about the financial burden of unexpected medical emergencies or accidents. This allows you to focus on enjoying your trip and exploring your new surroundings with confidence. 
  • Legal requirements: Sometimes, having travel insurance may be a legal requirement for entry into the US. For example, J-1 visa holders and scholars are often required to have health insurance that meets certain criteria. Having your insurance in place before arrival ensures that you meet these legal requirements and can avoid potential issues with immigration authorities. 

What happens when you buy coverage after arrival in the US? 

  1. Waiting periods: Many insurance plans for students, especially those offering coverage for pre-existing conditions, come with waiting periods. During this period, which can range from a few weeks to several months, you are not eligible for coverage related to pre-existing conditions. This means that if you require immediate medical attention for a pre-existing condition, you will need to pay for the expenses out of pocket. 
  2. Exclusion of recent incidents: Insurance plans may exclude coverage for any medical incidents that occurred before the policy’s effective date. If you have a medical issue shortly after arrival, it might not be covered if it can be traced back to a condition that developed before your insurance start date. 
  3. Delayed protection: When you buy insurance after arrival, your coverage might not start immediately. There could be a waiting period, which means you may not be protected from certain types of medical emergencies or accidents for a specified period after purchasing the policy. 

Important considerations 

When buying visitor insurance before or after arrival, keep the following considerations in mind: 

  1. Waiting periods: Some insurance plans may have waiting periods before certain benefits become active. Be aware of any waiting periods in your policy. 
  2. Coverage start date: Ensure you know when your insurance coverage begins. It typically starts on the date of purchase or a specified future date. 
  3. Documentation: Keep copies of your insurance policy, payment receipts, and any other relevant documents. You will need these if you file a claim. 
  4. Extensions: If you plan to extend your stay, contact your insurance provider to inquire about extending your coverage or purchasing a new policy. 
  5. Pre-existing conditions: Be aware that coverage for acute onset of pre-existing medical conditions may vary among insurance plans. Review the policy details to understand any limitations. 


While it is strongly advisable to arrange a visitor insurance plan before your trip to the US, purchasing coverage after your arrival is possible. Whether due to unforeseen circumstances or changes in plans you can still protect your health and finances by obtaining visitor insurance promptly. By researching, comparing plans, and understanding policy details, you can enjoy your stay with the confidence that you are prepared for unexpected medical situations. 

For any questions or queries, contact our team. 

Pallavi Sadekar

Pallavi Sadekar

Travel Insurance Expert

Pallavi Sadekar is a seasoned insurance professional with over 17 years of experience in the industry. As the Head of Operations at Visitor Guard®, she brings a wealth of expertise to the field. With a profound understanding of insurance, Pallavi has consistently demonstrated her commitment to helping clients make informed decisions about their coverage.

Pallavi’s insights and advice has earned her recognition in esteemed publications, including Forbes, USA Today, and various online platforms. Her contributions to these outlets have solidified her reputation as a trusted authority in the insurance domain. Whether it’s navigating the complexities of visitor insurance, finding the right coverage for clients, or understanding the intricacies of visitor health insurance, Pallavi’s in-depth knowledge allows her to offer practical and informed guidance to her clients.


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