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Reviewed and updated 25 April 2023

What is Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) is a type of health insurance designed for visitors to Australia.

If you come to Australia as a visitor, whether on holiday or to work, you are not eligible for Medicare (Australia’s public healthcare system).

It could be very expensive if you need to visit a doctor or stay in hospital while you are here. For example, if you experience a medical emergency and end up in a public hospital (as distinct from a private hospital) you could pay $1,000 a day in hospital fees.

If you take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC), it will give you access to Australia’s public health system – Medicare.


What does Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) cover?

Most Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) covers you for:

  • hospital expenses (medically-required hospital admissions)
  • medical expenses (a portion of your doctors’ fees)
  • limited medicines.

However, Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) policies vary in:

  • who they cover
  • what they cover
  • how much they cost.

What does Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) not cover?

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) varies a lot so you need to do your research before taking out cover.

Some policies do not cover certain types of treatment or have lower levels of cover. 

Other policies will exclude cover for pre-existing illnesses.

Generally, cover for pharmaceuticals is limited. This means it would be very expensive if you require, for example, cancer treatments.

Waiting periods before you can claim on your cover also vary.

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) does not cover treatments, including:

If you want to be covered for these treatments, you need to buy Overseas Extras Cover.


When must I take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

For the following working visas, you need to take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) that meets certain requirements:

  • 482 Temporary Skill Shortage 
  • 485 Temporary Graduate
  • A visa with condition 8501: maintain adequate health insurance, which may be imposed on the following visas:
    • Subclass 600 Visitor Visa
    • Subclass 462 Work and Holiday Visa
    • Subclass 417 Working Holiday Visa.

Check your visa to see whether you must buy Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) to meet the requirement 8501: maintain adequate health insurance.

Always check the Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) meets your visa requirements. 


When can I take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

I do not have access to Medicare

If you do not come from a country with access to Medicare through a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, you may want to buy Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC).

I have an interim or full Medicare Card

If you have an interim or full Medicare Card and want private health insurance, you can take out Australian private health insurance like any Australian citizen.

I am an Australian permanent resident or have applied for permanent residency in Australia

If you are an Australian permanent resident or you have applied for permanent residency, you can generally apply for temporary or full Medicare benefits and immediately use the public health system.

If you want private health cover, you can buy Australian private health insurance like any Australian citizen.


Do I still need to purchase travel insurance if I have Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) does not cover you for all medical and other expenses when you are in Australia.

If you are in Australia for a short visit, you may also want travel insurance. This covers you for things not covered by Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC), such as loss of travel goods and repatriation if you experience a medical emergency.

You need to purchase travel insurance in your country of origin before you come to Australia.


Do I need to take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) if I come from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia?

If you are a visitor from the following countries, you have access to Medicare under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement:

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

This means you can receive emergency treatment in the public health system. Normally, you would have to pay for this.

Only essential medical treatment is covered under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement. For example, if you want to see a doctor or attend a public hospital for treatment that is not medically necessary, you have to pay the full cost.

You can access the benefits under your country’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreement for a limited time only.

Check your country’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreement to see exactly what benefits you are entitled to while in Australia.

You may want to take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) if you want cover for treatments that are not covered under your country’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.


What is the best Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) varies between insurers.

Always pay close attention to what is and is not covered under a particular policy.

Some insurers may offer additional cover, including higher benefits for specific health services or Extras Cover.

We suggest you shop around.


Where can I take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

You can buy Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) from insurers based in Australia and overseas.

If you are on a visa with specific health insurance conditions, you must buy the type and level of insurance specified in your visa.

Here are some private health insurers in Australia that offer Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC):


How can I compare Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

The best way to compare Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) is to go to the insurer websites:

We recommend you compare as many policies as possible before taking out insurance.

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