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Emergency Dental Care for an International Student; Reporting a New Spouse's Income and Assets on the FAFSA

Mark Kantrowitz

September 27, 2010

I am not a US citizen. I came to the United States a month ago to begin graduate school. Unfortunately I got a severe toothache a week ago. As a teaching assistant I have health insurance provided by my school, but it doesn’t cover dental care. No matter how bad it gets, the toothache will not be considered an emergency. The $1,400 cost to take care of it is one and a half times my monthly salary. I don’t have any other funds, I don’t have anyone in this country and I don’t think I can get credit to cover the cost. I had no idea I could be rattled in such a way on my first month in this country. I am terrified that if I don’t address this soon, it will affect my results on my first semester and I will lose my current funding which is based on my academic performance. — Mahmoud D.

The federal regulations at 22 CFR 62.14 require international students (and their accompanying spouse and dependents) to have and maintain health insurance in order to obtain a J-1 student visa. The regulations do not, however, require dental insurance.

Ask your college whether they have an emergency loan fund you could use to spread the cost out over several months. Individual offices, such as the international students office, your academic department and the office of the dean for student affairs, may have their own loan funds.

Shop around for a lower cost dentist. $1,400 seems rather high for a root canal or extraction, even if the tooth is impacted. Call a nearby dental school to ask if they run a low-cost dental clinic. This can save you about half the typical cost for most procedures. The work will be performed by a student dentist and may take longer, but it will be supervised by a licensed dentist.

I am widowed and remarried, but my current wife keeps her assets separate from mine. We do file a joint tax return. When completing the FAFSA do I have to include her assets since they are not mine to use? It’s important because she has more assets than I do. — Zach D.

If an independent student is married as of the FAFSA application date, the spouse’s income and assets must be reported on the FAFSA alongside the student’s income and assets. Likewise, if a dependent student’s parent has remarried as of the FAFSA application date, the income and asset of the stepparent must be reported on the FAFSA too. The spouse’s income and assets must be included even if you were not married last year. Prenuptial agreements have no impact on this federal requirement.


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