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Can You Get Health Insurance While Waiting for a Green Card?

Navigating the complexities of obtaining a green card in the United States can be challenging. While waiting for approval, you may face other challenges, such as a lack of health insurance coverage. The good news is that you may be eligible to enroll in a medical plan while waiting for your green card. This article will outline potential options for securing health insurance coverage while you await approval.

Marketplace insurance for green card applicants

Many immigrants may meet the eligibility criteria for affordable health insurance even before obtaining a green card. Health insurance is available through various options, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), employer-sponsored health insurance, or student health insurance. Eligibility depends on your immigration status and if you meet the established criteria for the program you are applying to.

The Affordable Care Act established the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2010. Insurance coverage can be purchased through the marketplace if you meet specific eligibility criteria and immigration status. Additionally, depending on your income, you may be eligible to receive cost savings on insurance premiums. Open enrollment begins on November 1st of each year and ends on January 15th. If you sign up by December 15th, your insurance coverage will start on January 1st.

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Immigration statuses for Marketplace plans

To qualify for Marketplace plans, you must have a certain immigration status. Additionally, you cannot be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP to enroll in a marketplace plan. Below are some examples of eligible statuses.

  • Lawful permanent resident
  • Battered spouse, child, or parent
  • Cuban or Haitian entrant
  • Victims of trafficking and his/her spouse, child, sibling, or parent
  • Lawful temporary resident
  • Member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe or American Indian born in Canada
  • Immigrants in a temporary protected status
  • Refugee

There are several other immigration statuses that may qualify you for coverage. Your status will be verified during the application process, and you may be required to submit documentation supporting your immigration status. When applying for coverage, make sure to provide all requested documentation and required information.

Medicaid for green card applicants

Medicaid is a state program that typically provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families. Immigrants who are “qualified non-citizens” may be eligible for coverage through Medicaid or CHIP if they meet all other eligibility criteria within their state. Generally, there is a five-year waiting period, referred to as the “five-year bar,” for immigrants to get Medicaid and CHIP coverage.

Be aware that the waiting period starts once you reach an eligible immigration status and is not necessarily when you first enter the United States. Some groups of immigrants are excluded from the waiting period, and this may include refugees or immigrants who have been granted asylum.

Medicaid and CHIP coverage for pregnant women and children

If you’re pregnant or have children, you may qualify to have the five-year waiting period waived. Many states will cover children and pregnant women without the five-year waiting period. Additionally, as of March 2024, 12 states will provide comprehensive health coverage to children regardless of their immigration status. Furthermore, six states now offer state-funded coverage to eligible adults, regardless of immigration status.

Medicare coverage eligibility

If you’re over 65, you may qualify for Medicare coverage. Specifically, you may be able to obtain Medicare Part A without having to pay a premium. To be eligible, you must have worked for at least 10 years and paid Medicare payroll taxes. If you do not meet the minimum years worked, you can still purchase Medicare Part A, but only after you have lived in the United States legally for five consecutive years. There are additional benefits for green card holders over 65.

Employer-sponsored health insurance without a green card

If you work a part-time or full-time job, your employer may offer health insurance to you as a benefit of the job. Some employers may not require you to have a green card to enroll in their plan, making this a potential option for health insurance coverage before you obtain your green card.

Due to cost-sharing between the employer and the employee, these plans have many benefits. Some benefits include lower premiums, coverage for dependents, and additional benefits such as mental health services and wellness programs. You may also be eligible to continue your health insurance briefly after leaving your job under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

There are several healthcare insurance coverage options for eligible immigrants. Even visitor health insurance may be an option for temporary health insurance coverage while waiting for a green card. While these plans may not be comprehensive, they may cover the cost of your medications and emergency medical treatment costs.

It’s essential to explore all potential options for healthcare coverage to determine the best plan for your situation. Unfortunately, barriers such as fear, language, and confusion surrounding qualifications continue to present challenges for immigrants seeking coverage. You can learn more about your federal and state options and eligibility status by visiting


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