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Is a non-resident employee with a work visa, entitled to COBRA continuation coverage?

Generally, a non-resident employee, in the U.S. with an H-1B work visa must leave the country within 60-days of termination if another employer does not sponsor and employ them. In this situation the employer may ask why they would need to offer COBRA continuation coverage to a former employee who may not even reside in the U.S. shortly after that offer is made.

DOL regulations describing a COBRA beneficiary state that so long as an individual was employed and covered by a group health plan on the day before the qualifying event (in this case, the day before termination), COBRA must be offered. The regulations are silent on the issue of residency.

A reputable COBRA administrator with whom we work states that they believe the former employee must be offered COBRA continuation coverage. If 20 or more employees were employed on more than 50 percent of a company’s typical business days in the previous calendar year, then the company would be responsible for offering and administering COBRA, otherwise the insurance carrier would be responsible.

In either case, it seems clear that if a non-resident employee with a work visa is terminated, they are entitled to an offer of COBRA continuation coverage.

Department of Labor – COBRA Continuation Health Coverage FAQs

Willis — This in-depth Q & A regarding COBRA continuation coverage is very helpful. See question #8 for an even more extreme example of a non-resident who nonetheless may still qualify for continuation coverage.

Society for Human Resource Managers – Recent changes to H-1B grace period for terminated employees.