Health insurance for student visitors to Australia

Chris Stanley

Chris Stanley

Updated 21/04/2021
Fact Checked

Coming to Australia to study? You’ll probably need to take out OSHC cover before you arrive. Here’s what you need to know.

Health insurance for student visitors to Australia

Guide to overseas student health cover (oshc)

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.


If you’re planning to study in Australia, you might be wondering what the deal is with healthcare and whether you need health insurance. 

Australia provides universal healthcare for residents through the Medicare system, but overseas students generally aren’t eligible to have medical expenses paid for by the government (with a few exceptions).

With this in mind, most student visa holders in Australia need to buy Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to meet their visa requirements.

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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.

What is OSHC?

 OSHC is a special type of compulsory health cover for overseas students studying in Australia.

It’s designed to cover the costs of hospital and medical treatment for student visa holders. 

This means you don’t have to worry about what might happen if you get sick or injured while in Australia.

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.

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

 Under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA), you’re not required to have OSHC if you’re a student from:

  • Belgium

  • Sweden

  • Norway

If you’re a student from any of the other countries Australia has an RHCA with, you’ll still need OSHC.

Keep in mind that even if you’re exempt from needing OSHC, the medical treatment you can access through Medicare may be limited and doesn’t cover things like emergency ambulance fees or dental and optical services.

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.

How do I find the best OSHC policy?

 Because you need to purchase OSHC before you arrive in Australia, it’s a good idea to start thinking about cover sooner rather than later.

The student health insurance system can be tricky to navigate. Talking to a health insurance expert and comparing your options side-by-side can help you find the right policy for your needs.

Compare OVHC Insurance

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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Chris Stanley

Sales & Operations Manager for Health Insurance