Health Insurance Pending Green Card Application (I-485)

Applying for a green card can take several months or years. Thanks to Obamacare, most U.S. residents are now required to get health insurance. So, in this post we’ll talk about whether you need health insurance pending green card application and when you are eligible to apply.

In my case, when I arrived in the United States on a K1 fiance visa, I couldn’t get health insurance until I got married to my petitioner. Not only did we need to prove we were married but I also needed a social security number.

Then I was able to piggyback on my husband’s health insurance from his employer.

When someone adjusts status to get a green card, they are basically requesting to be a permanent resident based on their qualifying eligibility.

Case Example:

Rika first came to the U.S. on a student visa but she fell in love and married her American boyfriend Steve. They decided to adjust her status with form I-485 to get a green card.

After 3 months of waiting they realized that Rika really needs health insurance because they were planning to start a family. They looked into adding her to Steve’s insurance through work. But, since she didn’t have a green card or social security number, they were refused.

Are You Required To Get Health Insurance?

Since Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) was passed in March 2010, everyone who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is required to have health insurance or face a  tax penalty levied by the IRS.

If you watched the news during this time, you’d know how heated the debate was on whether to mandate everyone to buy health insurance.

I won’t get into where I stand in that debate but it’s always a good idea to carry health insurance in the U.S. You don’t want to in a situation where you have a serious medical emergency and can’t pay the bill.

In the United States, over 643,000 bankruptcies are filed due to medical debt every single year. That’s just ridiculous!

In other developed countries such as Canada or European countries, health insurance is a right. No one is left to fend for themselves. When I lived in Canada, I have never heard of anyone filing for bankruptcy because they had cancer.

Alright, now that you know health insurance will be required of all resident who make a minimum amount of income, let’s talk about how your immigration status will affect this requirement.

Immigration Status And Health Insurance

Whether you’ll be required to get health insurance pending green card is dependent on your immigration status. If you are here on a temporary visa such as a visitor visa, you aren’t required to buy health insurance.

Of course, if you are visiting the U.S., it’s recommended that you buy travelers insurance just in case something happens but it’s not a requirement of the visa.

Below are immigration statuses that are eligible to buy Obamacare:

  • Lawful Permanent Resident – You are a permanent resident or have a “green card.”
  • Asylee – You have been granted asylum inside the U.S. because you were able to prove you would likely suffer from persecution because of your religion, race, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a social group if you returned to your home country.
  • Refugee – You were designated as a refugee overseas and subsequently were admitted to the U.S.
  • Cuban/Haitian Entrant – You are Cuban or Haitian and you were granted parole status as part of the Cuban/Haitian Entrant Program.
  • Paroled into the U.S. – You were inspected by a Customs and Border Parole (CBP) agent and were allowed to enter the U.S.
  • VAWA – You were granted legal status through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), because you are a battered spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen.
  • Trafficking (“T”) visa – You were given a T visa because you were the victim of trafficking or you are the victim’s spouse, child, sibling, or parent.
  • Withholding of Deportation / Removal or Withholding of Removal under the Convention against Torture (CAT) – These are similar to being granted asylum which means you were able to show that you would suffer persecution or torture if sent back to your home country.
  • Individuals with valid Non-immigrant Status – This includes work visas, such as H-1B, L-1, E-3, E-2, TN, O, P, R-1, and their dependent spouses and children; student visas, such as F and J visas; and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – This status is granted if you are already inside the U.S., from countries where temporary circumstances prevent you from being sent safely back to your home country. Circumstances can include: natural disaster or war. Citizen of the following countries can get TPS:
    • El Salvador,
    • Haiti,
    • Honduras,
    • Nicaragua,
    • Somalia,
    • Sudan,
    • South Sudan,
    • Syria.
  • Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) – Although this is not an actual status, the government will not deport you for a specific period of time. Individuals from Liberia may be eligible for DED.

health insurance pending green card

Health Insurance Through An Employer

Trying to figure out if you can get health insurance pending green card through your employer is a bit tricky. Technically, if your adjustment of status (AOS) hasn’t been approved yet you wouldn’t be authorized to work.

The exception is if you’ve also applied for the employment authorization document (EAD) form I-765. Once your EAD card is approved, then you can begin working in the United States.

Most U.S. companies require that you wait 90 days before being eligible for their health insurance. Some consider this the “probationary period” of employment. You will either need to remain uninsured during this period or buy health insurance on the open market.

Another option is to be added to your spouse’s health insurance plan at work. You will likely need to provide proof of marriage and possibly your SSN as well.

Some employers reimburse you the cost of the health insurance you purchase through them. This is what my employer does and I don’t pay anything monthly for coverage. When looking for your next job, ask about their health coverage benefits.

Health Insurance Through The Exchanges

For those of you who aren’t working yet or are self-employed, you can look to the health exchanges to get insured. The exchanges are like open markets where you submit your basic information and are then given quotes from multiple insurance companies.

I’ll warn you that it’s still quite expensive.

There are tax credits available if your household income falls between 100%-400% of the poverty guideline for your household size.

Of course, this doesn’t help you with your monthly health insurance premium but you’ll be able to get a tax refund or owe less in taxes when it comes to tax season.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather get the credit immediately and apply it against the monthly payment.

Case Example:

Martin and Maria have recently gotten married and are adjusting Maria’s status. Maria entered the country without inspection and successfully submitted the I-601A waiver which was approved a few months later. Her I-485 is still pending and Martin wants to get her covered for health insurance.

Since Martin has been self-employed for years, he buys insurance on the health exchange for himself. When he tried to add Maria to his plan, it almost tripled is premium.

So, to save money he decided to apply for individual health insurance for her. Since she doesn’t have permanent resident yet, he was not able to get her health insurance through the exchanges and needs to wait until she gets her green card.

Final Thoughts Health Insurance Pending Green Card

Yes, health insurance is very important in the United States. But whether you are required or eligible to get it really depends on your immigration status.

We’ve look at whether you are required to get health insurance pending green card and the simple answer is maybe.

If you are in limbo between nonimmigrant status (or undocumented) and legal immigrant status, you may need to wait until your green card is approved.

Sounds scary, right? Medical emergencies don’t normally wait until you are fully insured before something unexpected happens.

I remember when I first entered the U.S. on the K1 visa, I didn’t have health insurance for about 3 months. This was the period of time when I was still single (not married yet) and couldn’t get on my husband’s insurance just yet.

Although I considered traveler’s insurance, it was way too expensive for the short period of time I would get coverage.

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