How to get Eyeglasses or Contact lenses in the United States?

Must Read for International Students | A detailed guide to get glasses in the United Sates


Many students who want to study in the US will include an additional pair of spare glasses while packing their luggage because they have heard that the general perception of glasses in the United States is expensive and difficult to obtain. Indeed, optometry here in the United States is not that complicated!


1. Basic knowledge of getting glasses prescription in the US

1. Basic knowledge of getting glasses prescription in the US

In the United States, glasses need to be prescribed first by an ophthalmologist. 

The prescription is generally valid for 1-2 years, within the validity period, you can use the prescription on the prescription. During this time, you may wear glasses in accordance with the ophthalmologist’s prescription recommendations.

Prescription Type

The prescription is often divided into two types: 

  • one comprising only frame glasses 
  • the other contains two prescriptions for frame glasses and contact lenses

Students may select either one based on their needs

Note: Contact lens prescriptions and eyeglass prescriptions are completely not the same. Due to the difference in distance between the lens and the eye, contact lenses are directly on your eye.  You can not use the eye contacts prescription for eyewear.


2. The process of optometry in the United States

2. The process of optometry in the United States

(1). Find the Vision Center near you:

  • School Health Center
  • Any nearby Vision Center that provides itemized bill 
  • Vision centers affiliated with chain optical stores or in supermarkets (Costco, Walmart, etc.)

(2). Optometry


While making appointments, please ask if the agent can give you an Itemized Bill, and explain whether you require a prescription for frame glasses or contact lenses. Simply leave your name and phone number along with your birthday.

Routine Exam

It is advisable to wear frame glasses for optometry and bring a photo ID (student ID/passport/driver’s license, etc.) and an insurance card on the day of optometry. We recommend arriving at the clinic at least 15 minutes in advance to complete your information form.

The results of optometry and vision tests are usually accessible immediately. You must discuss your vision condition with your doctor in order to select the best eyeglasses for you. You can also express your concerns to your doctor, who will provide you with the most expert diagnosis and guidance.

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-Exam Frequency

  • Routine eye exams are recommended every two years

Note: For students who notice sudden changes in vision or have a history of chronic medical conditions affecting the eyes, vision exams should be more frequent.

  • Contact lens exams are recommended every year unless stated otherwise on your prescription.

(3). Get Your Eyeglasses or Contacts


After having the optometry prescription issued by the doctor, the glasses are usually prepared in the following ways, and students can choose by themselves:

  • Online glasses e-commerce: Glassesusa, UHCcontacts, LensCrafters, Warby Parker,  etc. The price is usually lower, but you cannot try them on.
  • Vision Center at Walmart, Costco, or Target, where you can get glasses directly with a prescription. They are affordable, but there are typically fewer options.
  • Physical eyeglasses store or clinic.


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Contact Lenses

Similar to getting eyeglasses, you can purchase contacts after obtaining a contact lens prescription. If you have no ideas about contact lens’ brands, you can ask your doctor for some recommendations.


Note: Not everyone can get a contact lenses prescription successfully since doctors give the most professional advice based on the health of the eyes. Dry eyes or blepharitis or sensitive eyes would not be suitable for contact lenses and would be uncomfortable or unsafe.


3. How to use Vision Insurance

3. How to use Vision Insurance

-Process your claim

When using SM vision insurance, students need to pay in advance and then submit their claims if they ask for services for eyeglasses and optometry. The process is as follows:

(1)Log in to your UHCSR account and select Submit Claim

(2)Fill in the claim information, selectmedical claim as the claim type, and enter the actual amount of glasses and optometry for the bill amount.

(3)Upload the following documents depending on the claim type:

  • Copy of insurance card (you can download the electronic version of the insurance card directly on UHCSR)
  • Itemized Bills, which include your name, address, phone number, Tax ID, CPT Code, Diagnosis code, treatment time, and amount. For optometry, the prescription and receipt need to be provided (the document must contain the price of the eyeglasses)
  • Proof of purchase:

Payment by check (If you are paying by check, a copy of the front and back of the check is required.)  OR

-Credit card payment (If you paid by credit card, a credit card statement showing the cardholder’s full name, institution name and payment information for each service date is required.)  OR

-ATM or debit card payment (A bank statement must be provided showing the account holder’s full name, institution name and payment information for each service date.)  OR

-Cash payment (if paying by cash, students need to keep the receipt, and UHCSR will call the clinic for verification.)

-Check the status of your claim

Note: United HealthCare, the largest insurance company in the United States, sponsors Student Medicover insurance, so the claim process is fully compliant with UHC standards.

(1). log in to your account

Students can check the status of their claim settlement at any time by logging onto their UHCSR account. Depending on the amount of claims received by the insurance company, the whole process may take 20 to 30 working days to process.

(2). View your EOB 

Students can access the official EOB on the My Account page once UHCSR has processed the claim. 

Note: EOB contains the claims for optometry that students can view. However, it is not a bill, but a note explaining all insurance benefits. 

(3). Receive checks

After processing the claim, UHCSR will mail the claim amount to the student in the form of a check, which takes approximately 2 weeks. If you haven’t received it within two weeks, please call UHCSR customer service at 866-352-8632 and ask for a new check.

4. Making sense of exclusive ophthalmology benefits for SM users

4. Making sense of exclusive ophthalmology benefits for SM users

Student Medicover’s health insurance plans-Supreme, Elite, and Prime-include a $100 benefit for regular vision exams and a $100 benefit for eyeglasses (both frames and contact lenses).

  • Routine Vision Exam: The benefit limit per policy year is $100, and the bill will be paid in full if it does not exceed $100.


  • Frames and contact lenses benefit: The maximum benefit is $100 per policy year (once every 24 consecutive months) and is paid at 100% within that $100.

Note: The benefits above are only eligible for students aged 19 and over since for users under the age of 19, Student Medicover insurance has already covered optometry.

5. Other Frequently Asked Questions

5. Other Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:Is a foreign eyeglass prescription valid in the U.S?

Yes or no. Some US optical sites may accept foreign prescriptions for eyeglasses, but not all of them, and it is highly recommended that bring your foreign prescription with you and ask the doctor to verify. Make sure your prescription is current, while optometrists use a standard prescription when issuing prescriptions.

Q2: Is it possible to get a prescription from a pair of current glasses?

Yes, it is possible. In fact, checking your current glasses is the first thing an optometrist does during an exam. Any optician should be able to take an RX off a pair of glasses. But for the sake of your eye health, it’s important to make sure that your current eyeglass prescription is the right one for you.  Before issuing a prescription, the Optometrists will still check your vision to determine if the current prescription on your glasses is applicable.

Q3: When it comes to colored contact lenses, do I need to have a prescription even if I have no need for vision correction?

The answer is yes!  No matter whether they are used for cosmetic purposes or vision correction, contacts are medical devices. You definitely need to have a valid prescription to order contact lenses.

6. Enroll Now

6. Enroll Now


Contact Us

 If you have any questions about the appointment, optometry, eyeglasses, or claims process, please feel free to email us at for further help!