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Chris Stanley

Chris Stanley

Updated 07/06/2024

Health insurance for international students

OSHC is a type of health insurance that’s mandatory for most overseas students who are studying in Australia. Here’s what you need to know.

Key Points

  • OSHC is health insurance designed to cover the cost of medical treatment for overseas students in Australia.

  • OSHC is mandatory for most overseas students travelling to Australia on a Subclass 500 Student Visa.

  • Coverage and prices vary from insurer to insurer, and shopping around can help you find the best policy for your needs.

Australia provides universal healthcare for residents through the Medicare system. However, overseas students generally do not qualify for government-funded medical expenses, with a few exceptions. If you’re planning to study in Australia, you’ll need to know about Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). This type of health insurance is mandatory for most students who are travelling to Australia on a Subclass 500 Student Visa.

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What is OSHC (Overseas Student Health Cover)?

OSHC is a form of private health insurance designed to cover the costs of hospital and medical treatment for student visa holders, providing peace of mind in case of illness or injury. It’s mandatory for most overseas students travelling to Australia on a Subclass 500 Student Visa. Most student visa holders in Australia are required to purchase OSHC before they even arrive here.

How much does OSHC cost?

Cover and prices vary from insurer to insurer, so it's important to shop around to find the best policy for your needs.

Generally though, the lowest minimum cover is $500 for 12 months of singles cover, $2,600 for 12 months of couples cover and $4,200 for 12 months of family cover (as of September 2023).

Do I need OSHC?

 Generally speaking, anyone travelling to Australia on a Subclass 500 Student Visa needs OSHC.

If you’re coming to Australia on a student visa, you’ll need to buy OSHC before you arrive as a condition of your visa application.

Once you’re in Australia, your OSHC policy will cover you while you’re enrolled as a student.

Is it mandatory?

For the most part, student visitors to Australia are required to arrange health insurance in the form of Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) as part of temporary student visa conditions so you don't actually have a choice in the matter.

You need to maintain your coverage throughout your stay in Australia as falling behind on premiums can mean that you're in danger of breaching your visa conditions.

Do all students need OSHC?

No. Students from the following countries are covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) between their home nations and Australia:

  • Belgium

  • Sweden 

  • Norway 

Students from these three countries are exempt from needing OSHC because they can access some parts of Medicare, which is Australia’s public health insurance scheme.

However, students from other countries with an RHCA with Australia still require OSHC. Important Note: Even if you are exempt from needing to take out OSHC, Medicare may not cover all your medical expenses if you experience a health emergency while you’re studying here.

What does OSHC cover?

 Most student health insurance policies include cover for:

  • Emergency hospital visits

  • Emergency ambulance transport

  • Doctor’s visits

  • A portion of the cost of prescriptions, x-rays and bloodwork

Exact coverage differs from insurer to insurer, so it’s worth comparing different policies to figure out which one offers you the best value for money.

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What’s not covered by OSHC?

 Some of the medical services and treatments commonly not covered by basic OSHC policies include:

  • Dental

  • Optical

  • Physiotherapy

  • Elective or cosmetic surgeries

  • IVF

  • Non-emergency ambulance transport

That said, you can still get cover for services and treatments like these by buying what’s known as ‘extras cover’, which is a separate policy to your OSHC cover.

Inclusions, exclusions and benefit levels with extras cover differ between policies and insurers. 

Comparing policies can help you find the right level of cover for your situation.

Who’s covered by my OSHC policy?

A single OSHC policy typically only covers the student who is here to study. 

A dual family policy can cover the student and either their partner or child. 

If you’re coming to Australia to study and bringing your family with you, there are family policies available for overseas students as well.

Are there waiting periods for OSHC?

Waiting periods are a period of time you have to wait before you can use your health cover.

Some student health insurance policies include waiting periods for certain types of services, such as treating pre-existing medical conditions and pregnancy-related services.

Waiting periods differ from policy to policy, so it’s a good idea to read the fine print or talk to a health insurance expert before signing on the dotted line.

What happens if I change visas?

Depending on the situation, you might need to switch to a new health insurance policy.

One example is if you’re moving from a Subclass 500 Student Visa to a Subclass 485 Temporary Graduate Visa. In this situation, you’d need to switch to an Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) policy.

Be aware that if your student visa ends but you’re staying in Australia, you might not be covered for medical treatment unless you move to a new private health insurance policy.

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How do I find the best OSHC policy?

Start researching and comparing OSHC policies before you arrive in Australia. Consult a health insurance expert and compare options to find the right policy for your needs. The Australian Government Department of Health has approved the following health funds to offer OSHC:

  • ahm OSHC

  • Allianz Care Australia (Peoplecare)

  • BUPA Australia

  • CBHS International Health

  • Medibank Private


Overseas Student Health Cover is an important aspect for international students studying in Australia as it ensures their access to medical treatment and meets their visa requirements. Understanding OSHC can help overseas students have a smooth and successful academic experience in Australia.


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

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

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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Meet our health insurance expert, Chris Stanley

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