An international student guide to Australia

Getting the right insurance cover is crucial for a smooth and safe study abroad experience, because unexpected things can happen when you least expect it. Depending on the problem, this could lead to a huge financial cost, mired in complicated administrative tasks.

For example, Diana Marcela Niño, a Colombian who studied in Melbourne, Australia, died in May this year. According Spanish SBSthe 38-year-old man from Bogota came to Australia alone to study English.

When the strict COVID-19 lockdowns began in Melbourne, she was alone and told loved ones she felt the pandemic had “completely changed her life”.

On May 20, 2022, her family lost contact with her and they decided to create a Facebook group to ask if anyone knew where she was. Eleven days later, the family learned of Marcela Niño’s whereabouts when a member of the Facebook group offered to go to a Melbourne police station to ask for information.

Talk to SPS SpanishVictoria Police said she was found dead in Flinders Street, Melbourne on May 22, 2022. The death was not being treated as suspicious.

Repatriation is described as the act or process of returning someone or something to their country of origin, allegiance or citizenship. Source: Johan Ordonez/AFP

Repatriation is an expensive nightmare for families of international students

In Marcela Niño’s case, repatriation is the process of returning the young woman’s body to Colombia. The portal confirmed that the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs mediated between the family and the Australian authorities regarding the relevant procedures and the repatriation of the young woman’s body.

Javier Parada, who works at the Colombian Embassy in the Consular Section in Canberra, explains that they “accompany the relatives of the deceased, giving them information on funeral services, repatriation services and other matters. related to the legislation of each location, since each country has specific requirements and procedures in place”.

However, consulates generally do not cover repatriation costs when one of their nationals dies abroad. the Overseas Student Health Insurance (OSHC) — compulsory insurance that all international students must have before students can obtain a visa to study in Australia.

It is a legal requirement for international students to maintain adequate health insurance for the duration of their student visa. The Home Office will review the student’s OSHC policy before granting a visa. Students cannot enter Australia until their health insurance policy has started.

insurance cover

Overseas Student Health Cover insurance is compulsory insurance for all international students before coming to Australia; it does not cover expenses in the event of death. Credit: William West/AFP

Should all student insurance include death cover?

Speaking to SBS Spanish, Australia’s Department of Health and Aged Care shares that OSHC has focused on covering “health and medical treatment, ambulance services and pharmaceutical items” for make it affordable for international students.

The rationale for not including death expenses was to not discourage prospective international students from coming to Australia to study and to “ensure they have access to affordable medical and hospital care while in the country”.

The Ministry of Health spokesperson also explains: “Services such as medical repatriation are appropriately available as an option under the additional cover of OSHC products.

“Repatriation is also available under other types of insurance, such as travel insurance. Details of the various products and additional covers offered by insurers are also publicly available.

This raises the question: should international students be better guided when acquiring their OSHC?

Immigration lawyer Carlos Lindo shares that migration officers rarely explain OSHC limits or conditions to prospective international students coming to Australia and should “go the extra mile” to recommend students take out a life insurance to cover them in the event of death.

insurance cover

Choosing the right insurance plan as a student can be a daunting task, so we recommend consulting an insurance agent to choose the right plan. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

Insurance coverage tips for international students in Australia

Knowing the right insurance coverage will help you save on medical costs you may incur while studying abroad. Below are some tips and tricks to know to choose the right insurance for an international student in Australia.

Understand what the OSHC covers

Here is an overview of what you can expect from OSHC insurance:

  • Suppose you become ill or injured in Australia. In this case, you can claim the full cost of your GP appointment as most OSHC providers pay 100% of the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS), where the Australian government subsidizes the rate. You must pay the difference yourself if your doctor charges you more than the MBS fee.
  • For medicines, you are covered for an annual amount of 300 Australian dollars. On the other hand, the cost per pharmaceutical item must not exceed AU$50.
  • You are covered in public hospitals in shared rooms and for medical care administered.
  • The OSHC also covers ambulance services.

Search and compare insurance plans

OSHC is the minimum health cover you must have as an international student in Australia, but it is not the only insurance you can buy. In fact, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care recommends students check out other types of insurance coverage.

This can include travel insurance, private health insurance, as well as home or auto insurance, depending on your needs and budget.

Read the fine print

The fine print will contain minor details that you may have skimmed through as a student, including exclusions, hidden limits, or waiting periods for different benefits. Take the time to read your policy carefully and understand how claims are handled.


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Justin D. O'Neill