Guide to Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)

Chris Stanley

Chris Stanley

Updated 08/08/2022

Visiting Australia? Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) can save you a lot of money, and in some cases it’s mandatory.

Guide to Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)

Guide to overseas visitors health cover (ovhc) health

If you’re visiting Australia from overseas, you might not have access to Medicare – Australia’s universal healthcare system. This means if you need medical treatment while you’re here, you could be out of pocket by hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) can help you avoid hefty medical bills if you ever need treatment in Australia. In some cases, OVHC is mandatory.

This guide breaks down how OVHC works, what’s covered, when you need it and how to find the best cover for your situation.

Key Points

  • Overseas Visitors Health Cover, or OVHC, is a type of private health insurance designed for visitors to Australia

  • OVHC is mandatory for some overseas visitors coming to Australia on working or tourist visas

  • OVHC can help you avoid hefty medical bills if you ever need treatment in Australia

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What is OVHC?

Overseas Visitor Health Cover, or OVHC, is a type of private health insurance designed for students visiting Australia. Depending on the level of cover you choose, OVHC can cover you for different types of services including:

  • Hospital visits

  • GP visits

  • Out-of-hospital services like dental, physiotherapy and optical

  • Prescriptions

  • Emergency ambulance rides

Generally speaking, the most basic level of OVHC covers hospital visits. Other services like GP visits and dental treatment are included in higher levels of cover. 

Is health insurance mandatory for visitors to Australia?

 Sometimes. If you’re planning to visit Australia on a student visa you’ll need OVHC to get your visa approved. Some other visitor visas also require OVHC.

One exception to this is if you’re from a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia (more on that below).

But even if you’re not required to get it, OVHC could make a lot of sense if you want to avoid out-of-pocket medical expenses and get access to the benefits of being covered privately.

Potential extra benefits include:

  • Coverage for other types of treatment besides hospital care

  • Shorter wait times for treatment

  • A broader choice of providers

Does OVHC cover GP visits?

It can, depending on your level of cover. Basic OVHC usually only covers in-hospital treatment, whereas higher tiers of cover can include doctor’s visits. 

Many health funds also offer optional additional cover for extras such as dental, physiotherapy, optical and chiropractic services.

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Can you get dental cover with OVHC?

Yes. Some health funds offer OVHC for dental treatment including general dental services like cleaning and scaling, as well as major dental work like root canals, crowns and bridges. 

Health funds typically include dental cover as part of their top-tier policies. You can also opt for dental cover in a standalone ‘extras’ policy in addition to basic OVHC.

How does OVHC work for pregnancy?

Most health funds include basic pregnancy-related services as part of their OVHC policies. This usually means cover for public hospital stays, but not doctor’s fees, blood tests, ultrasounds or anaesthesia.

Some health funds offer more comprehensive pregnancy cover with higher-tier OVHC policies.

It’s worth noting that there’s a 12-month waiting period for pregnancy with OVHC. This means you need to have held the OVHC for at least 12 months before the birth of the baby.

Are there waiting periods for OVHC?

 It depends on the health fund and the treatment. Generally, OVHC includes a 12-month waiting period for pregnancy-related services and treatment for pre-existing conditions. Some health funds also have waiting periods for other types of treatments and services.

No two OVHC policies are exactly the same, so it’s a good idea to find out what waiting periods would apply in your situation by comparing cover from multiple funds.

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What happens if my visa changes?

 Depending on the situation, it could be a good idea to switch your health cover.

One example is if you’re switching from a temporary visa that requires OVHC to a permanent resident (PR) visa. 

Even though as a PR you’ll be covered by Medicare, switching from OVHC to domestic health insurance can give you all the advantages of private health cover plus tax benefits. Premiums for domestic health cover also tend to be cheaper than OVHC.

Keep in mind if you’re switching from a visa that doesn’t require OVHC to one that does, you’ll need health cover before you can get your new visa. 

An example of this would be switching from a Working Holiday 417 visa to a Temporary Skill Shortage 482 visa. You can learn more in our guide to private health insurance for 482 visa holders.

My home country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia. Do I still need OVHC?

 If you’re from one of the following countries, you’re eligible for Medicare in Australia and don’t technically need OVHC:

  • The United Kingdom

  • The Republic of Ireland

  • New Zealand

  • Sweden

  • The Netherlands

  • Finland

  • Belgium

  • Norway

  • Slovenia

  • Malta

  • Italy

That said, it could still be a good idea to get OVHC because it covers you for services and treatments Medicare won’t, such as:

  • Treatment in a private hospital

  • Treatment as a private patient in a public hospital

  • Your choice of doctor

  • Emergency ambulance fees (some policies)

  • Dental, optical and physiotherapy treatment (some policies)

Which health funds offer OVHC in Australia?

 There are several health funds in Australia that offer OVHC. These include:

Cover varies from fund to fund, with various levels of OVHC available from most funds.

How do I find the best OVHC for my situation?

There’s no one-size-fits-all OVHC policy, so it’s worth crunching the numbers to find cover that gives you the best value for what you need. 

You might decide you only need basic OVHC to get your visa, or you might want the peace of mind you’re covered for things like doctor’s visits and dental treatment as well.

There’s a lot of options to choose from, but using a comparison service like Compare Club* can help you find the best cover quickly and easily. Click to get started.

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This guide is opinion only and should not be taken as medical or financial advice. Check with a financial professional before making any decisions.

*We compare selected products from a panel of trusted insurers. We do not compare all products in the market.

Chris Stanley is the sales & operations manager of health insurance at Compare Club. With extensive experience and expertise, Chris is a trusted leader known for his deep understanding of health insurance markets, policies, and coverage options. As the sales & operations manager of health insurance, Chris leads a team of dedicated professionals committed to helping individuals and families make informed decisions about their health insurance needs.

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Chris Stanley

Sales & Operations Manager for Health Insurance