overseas visitors health cover (ovhc)

Overseas Visitors Health Cover

Are you a non-resident looking for health insurance? Compare overseas visitors health cover (OVHC)

If you’re an overseas visitor to Australia, you’ll need to take out overseas visitor private health cover. Private health insurance is a mandatory requirement on certain types of visas.

Even if it’s not compulsory for you, taking out private health cover ensures that you can always access medical care in Australia. Sickness or accident can strike at any time, so it pays to be protected.

Keep reading to find out how you can benefit from taking out overseas visitors health cover.

Speak with an adviser about overseas visitors health cover (OVHC)

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Who offers cover for non-residents?

Australian Unity Overseas Visitors Health Cover

Australian Unity offer cover for non-residents on both working and non-working visas. Australian Unity offer three levels of overseas visitors health insurance on non-working visas: Basic, Mid and Top Overseas Visitors Cover. The benefits include:

  • Accommodation and theatre fees
  • Assistance with medical fees
  • Emergency room fees
  • Emergency ambulance
  • Day surgery
  • Prosthesis

Australian Unity also offer two options for those on working visas: Budget Workers Cover and Workers Cover Plus. These policies cover benefits including:

  • Overnight accommodation, day surgery and theatre fees in public hospitals
  • Medically necessary ambulance services
  • In-hospital doctor and specialist consultations

HCF Overseas Visitors Health Insurance

HCF Overseas Visitor Health Cover is designed for international visitors and offers cover to various visa groups. The policy provides you with cover for various situations including:

  • Government-approved prostheses
  • Hospital accommodation
  • Intensive care costs
  • Removal of adenoids appendix, and tonsils

nib Overseas Visitors Health Insurance

nib offers Overseas Visitors Health Cover a subsidiary called IMAN Australian Health Plans. IMAN policies meet the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) visa requirements, and working visa health cover is available for singles, couples and families. Benefits include:

  • Ambulance cover within Australia
  • Extras cover
  • Funeral benefit
  • Hospital accommodation
  • Repatriation benefit

Visa types that can get cover

Overseas visitors health cover (OVHC) for working visas

  • 401 Temporary Work (Long Stay Activity). This visa allows overseas visitors to come to Australia on a temporary basis to work under the Exchange, Religious Worker, Sport or Domestic Worker (Executive) stream.
  • 402 Training and Research. This visa is for people who come to Australia to undergo training, professional development or conduct research.
  • 403 Temporary Work (International Relations). This visa offers four streams: the Government Agreement Stream, the Foreign Government Agency stream, the Domestic Worker stream and the Privileges and Immunities stream.
  • 416 Special Program. The 416 visa is for people visiting Australia under cultural exchange programs.
  • 420 Temporary Work (Entertainment). This visa is for visitors working in Australia in the entertainment industry.
  • 457 Temporary Work (Skilled). The 457 visa allows skilled workers to travel to Australia and work in their nominated occupation.
  • 485 Temporary Graduate. This visa is for international students who have recently graduated from an Australian educational institution.

Overseas visitors health cover for non-working visas

  • 580 Student Guardian. This is a temporary visa for the guardians of international students.
  • 600 Visitor. This visa is available to visitors and business visitors.
  • 601 Electronic Travel Authority. This visa is available to visitors and business visitors.
  • 651 eVisitor. This visa is available to visitors and business visitors.
  • 400 Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity). The 400 visa is for visitors who want to undertake short-term, highly specialised work in Australia.
  • 417 Working Holiday. This visa allows young people to work and holiday in Australia for up to one year.
  • 462 Work and Holiday. This visa allows young people to work and holiday in Australia for up to one year.
  • 444 Special Category – New Zealand Citizen. The 444 visa lets New Zealand citizens visit, study and work in Australia.
  • 461 New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (Temporary). This visa allows a non-New Zealand family member of a New Zealand citizen to live and work in Australia.
  • 476 Skilled – Recognised Graduate. This visa allows recent engineering graduates to gain skilled work experience.
  • 489 Skilled Regional. This visa allows skilled workers to live and work in regional Australia.
  • 188 Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional). This visa is for people who want to own or manage a business in Australia or invest in Australia.

Cover is also available for those on bridging visas 010, 020, 030, 040, 041 and 051.

What type of cover do I need?

If you’re visiting Australia on a temporary visa, you should consider taking out overseas visitors health cover (OVHC). Medical treatment in Australia can be very expensive. If you’re injured or fall ill during your visit, you will have to cover your medical expenses out of your own pocket if you don’t have OVHC.

For some people, such as those on a 457 visa or 485 visa, adequate medical insurance is essential in order to be allowed entry into Australia. Make sure the health cover you plan on purchasing meets the requirements of your particular visa.

Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) in place with the following countries:

  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Sweden
  • The Netherlands
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Malta
  • Slovenia
  • Norway

Under the RHCA, visitors from these countries are able to access subsidised health care under the Medicare system.

This includes cover for free treatment as a public patient in a public hospital, as well as Medicare cover for visits to a doctor and limited cover for the cost of pharmaceuticals. But the RHCA only provides limited cover, so many overseas visitors opt to take out a higher level of cover through an OVHC policy. This includes cover for a private room, the ability to choose your own doctor and hospital, ambulance cover and gap cover (this covers the difference between what a doctor charges and what Medicare will cover), and optical, dental and physio cover.

If you’re a student who is visiting Australia on a temporary student visa, one condition of your visa may be that you take out overseas student health cover. Many health insurers offer policies specially designed to meet the cover needs of overseas students, helping them cover the cost of medical and hospital care if required while in Australia. Overseas student health cover also provides limited cover for ambulance transportation costs and pharmaceuticals.

However, thanks to the RHCA, some Swedish, Belgian and Norwegian students are not required to take out overseas student health cover in order to obtain a visas. Check with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for clarification.

Those who are in Australia on a student visa from the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovenia, Italy or New Zealand are eligible to apply for Medicare. However, students from Norway, Finland, Malta and the Republic of Ireland, are not covered by the RHCA and must take out overseas student health cover.

Do you have access to Medicare?

The Australian health care system has two components:

  1. Medicare, which is the public health care system run by the Australian Government
  2. The private health care system

The Australian Government has a RHCA in place with 11 other countries. If you’re a resident of one of those countries and you visit Australia, you’ll be entitled to receive Medicare benefits while you’re living and working in Australia. The level and duration of cover available varies depending on your country of residence, so do your research and know how much protection you have before you arrive.

If you’re not from a country that has a health care agreement with Australia, you’ll be required to cover the costs of all your ambulance, hospital and doctors’ fees if you need medical attention while you’re in Australia.

What is covered by Medicare?

Medicare provides free or subsidised cover for a range of health care services, including:

  • Medically necessary treatment in a public hospital
  • GP visits
  • Referrals to specialist doctors
  • Medical tests
  • Prescription medication that is subsidised under Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

However, there are many things Medicare does not cover, such as:

  • Treatment in a private hospital
  • Ambulance transportation costs
  • Repatriation to your home country if you are seriously ill
  • Access to your choice of doctor or specialist
  • Ancillary benefits such as optical and dental

Can I get access to PBS medication

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is designed to give Australians easy and affordable access to necessary medicines. It features a wide range of medicines that are subsidised by the Australian Government. Most medicines listed on the PBS are dispensed by pharmacists and used at home by patients, but some can only be administered under medical supervision.

Visitors to Australia are generally ineligible for benefits under the PBS, so you may incur significant pharmaceutical expenses if you don’t have overseas visitor health cover in place while you’re in Australia.

Tips for getting the right overseas visitors health insurance

  • Know the waiting periods. Check the fine print from your insurer so you’re fully aware of how long you will have to wait before you can claim a benefit. Pre-existing conditions attract a waiting period of 12 months from many health funds, while other providers will exclude pre-existing conditions from cover entirely. Most policies offer cover that commences when you arrive in Australia, so any health issues that develop while you are travelling down under will most likely be classed as pre-existing.
  • Check what is restricted and excluded. Remember that certain procedures and services may only be partially covered by your fund, while others may not be covered at all. For example, cosmetic procedures or medical care received outside Australia will be excluded from cover.
  • Consider a higher level of cover. Purchasing the highest level of hospital cover that fits within your budget is recommended. In order to keep your premiums down, you could opt to pay a higher excess if you ever require hospital treatment.
  • Check what pharmacy cover is included. Most overseas visitor health cover policies only offer limited cover for pharmaceuticals. They will typically not provide adequate cover for the cost of expensive drugs such as those used in chemotherapy.
  • Inform your fund of any changes. Has your visa status changed? Have you become a permanent resident or citizen of Australia? Make sure to notify your health fund immediately of any changes to your circumstances so that you always have the right type of health cover in place.
  • Stay up to date with payments. Make sure that you continue paying your premiums. If you’re late with payments, your fund could refuse claims or cancel your policy.
  • Contact your fund if you need treatment. If you anticipate that you will need treatment, contact your health fund to find out whether or not you will be covered. If your insurer won’t cover the treatment you need, ask the medical service provider to quote you how much the service will cost out of your own pocket.


Q. With which countries does Australia currently have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?

  • A. Australia currently has agreements in place with the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Belgium.

Q. What does a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement mean for me?

  • A. If you’re visiting from a country with which Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, you can receive some subsidised health services for essential medical treatment while you are in Australia.

Q. Do I still need overseas visitor cover if I’m covered under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?

  • A. Yes. The health cover provided under such agreements is limited, so taking out overseas visitors health insurance is always recommended.

Q. What is the difference between an inpatient and an outpatient?

  • A. An inpatient is someone who is formally admitted to hospital by order of a doctor. An outpatient has not been admitted as an inpatient. For example, you are an outpatient if you are getting X-rays or simply being kept under general observation.

Q. Do all Australian visas require me to have health insurance?

  • A. While some visas require you to take out private overseas visitors health cover (OVHC) in order to be accepted, not all visas include this requirement. However, it’s still recommended that you take out overseas visitor health cover for your time in Australia.

Q. Does overseas visitor insurance cover the cost of ambulance services?

  • A. Many policies will include cover for emergency ambulance transportation, but check with your insurer to be sure.

Q. What happens if I become a permanent resident or citizen of Australia?

  • A. You will need to notify your health insurer immediately so that you can be transferred to an appropriate form of cover.

Q. What is a waiting period?

  • A. A waiting period is the time you must wait before you are eligible to claim a benefit under your OVHC. Different waiting periods apply for different medical services and different levels of cover, so contact your health fund for more details.

Compare health insurance for overseas residents

Finding the right overseas visitors health cover is essential for non-residents visiting Australia, so compare a range of cover options to ensure that you have the right protection in place.

Compare policies with the help of an adviser about OVHC

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