Love knows no borders, and the United States has made a specific category of visa for foreign born individuals who would like to enter the US to marry a US citizen. However, the process of transitioning to life in the United States as a foreign spouse can present its own unique challenges, one of which is securing benefits such as health insurance. Many non-citizen spouses rely on the assumption that once they are married to a US citizen, they can take advantage of that person’s benefits. However, there are some important things you need to know about this process.
Can A K1 Visa Spouse Receive Their Spouse’s Benefits?
The short answer is “not always.” Whether or not the spouse of a US citizen can rely on their partner’s benefits will depend upon how long they have been married and what step of the immigration process they are currently in. The primary reason that most benefits are not available to foreign spouses immediately is due to the fact that the majority require a social security number in order to enroll. This includes health insurance.
The assignment of a social security number happens when an individual acquires a green card, so simply coming to the United States on a K1 and getting married does not grant immediate access to health care. Obtaining a green card can take some time, and the first phase of the green card process is also conditional to ensure that the marriage was bona fide, so it is wise to make alternative plans during this period to cover benefits for the non-citizen spouse.
Alternatives To Bridge The Gap
When it comes to health insurance specifically, K1 visa spouses have a number of options to cover the period between marriage and securing their green card (and, by extension, their social security number). One option is an indemnity plan, which is a very specific type of health insurance that pays you directly when you meet the qualifying criteria. For example, you can purchase a hospital indemnity plan; then, if you are taken to the hospital for care, the plan will pay you your benefit directly, or you can have it assigned to the doctor to pay for your care in that manner. Indemnity plans typically require an ITIN, but other options are available if you do not have one.
Short-term medical insurance may be a worthwhile choice for you if you have neither a social security number nor an ITIN. Short-term medical insurance acts like it sounds—it covers short periods, typically around three months at a time, before needing to be renewed. You can maintain a short-term plan to bridge the gap until you receive your social security number.
You may also consider travel insurance. While this tends to be a more expensive option, it is also widely available with few requirements.
What Is Covered And What Is Not
One of the negatives of health insurance plans that are available without a social security number is that they do not benefit from the guarantees of federal mandates such as the Affordable Care Act. That means that they can choose not to cover certain important procedures, and you should plan for this possibility. Most of the types of plans that will be accessible to a non-citizen spouse will not cover pre-existing conditions, and many will also opt not to cover pregnancy. Finally, you may find that even many prescription drugs are not covered.
While the Affordable Care Act ensures that coverage for these conditions is mandatory for health insurance plans, this only applies to standard health insurance and not alternative health insurance options. For this reason, it is wise to simply stay safe and keep family planning in mind for the duration of time between the marriage and securing the green card in order to avoid incurring unnecessary expenses. If you do become pregnant during this time and are concerned about affordability, check with your state’s Medicaid office to see if they offer assistance for pregnant non-citizens.
Work With An Immigration Attorney To Secure Your Green Card
As you consider how to reshape your life around the immigration process of acquiring a K1, getting married and securing a green card, be sure to keep in mind that you cannot simply claim your spouse’s benefits as soon as you are married. In order to explore your options and ensure that you get your green card with as little delay as possible, be sure to work with experienced immigration attorneys such as the ones at Pride Immigration. Reach out to schedule a consultation to review your case.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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