Life insurance is important for most people. It adds a level of security and safety to life’s plans so there’s no worrying about what happens to your family if you die and the house isn’t paid off or you still have student loan debts.
There can be even more uncertainty for visa holders in the United States. Whether they’re on the path to citizenship or simply in the country to study or work for a few years, they have the same needs for financial protection as citizens.
Luckily, it’s possible for visa holders to get life insurance coverage when they’re residing in the United States. But there are some unique caveats that apply to visa holders applying for life insurance that can make an important difference in their coverage options.
Here’s what visa holders need to know about applying for life insurance in the United States, and the best life insurance companies to give them coverage.
The different resident classifications
When it comes to people who weren’t born in the United States, potential applicants fall into two categories: temporary and permanent residents.
Temporary residents are non-residents: they’re currently in the U.S., and they probably work or go to school, but they aren’t classified as U.S. citizens. This category includes visa holders, as well as people with employment authorization documents (EADs), aka work permits.
Then there are green card holders. Applicants should still disclose if they’re green card holders, but for the purposes of applying for life insurance, they’re treated the same as natural-born U.S. citizens.
Why is this distinction important? Because not every life insurance carrier provides the same coverage opportunity for every visa type. For example, green card holders can potentially apply with all U.S. life insurance carriers, but Prudential and Transamerica will provide that opportunity to EAD holders, as will MetLife and Principal (with some stipulations, like having an accompanying visa or being on the path toward a green card). Banner, Lincoln, and Pacific Life only allow green card holders to apply and do not offer coverage to any visa holders.
Below are life insurance carriers that allow some visa holders to apply for life insurance, but there are a few caveats before we dive in. Even if a carrier accepts applications from certain visa holders, a variety of related factors could prevent coverage:
There may be country of origin limitations (more on this later)
There may be residency minimums (ie, must have lived in the U.S. for at least two or three years)
There may be rating limits (ie, will only qualify for Standard coverage)
Decisions may be made on a case-by-case basis, even if the visa type is listed as not accepted
Applicants usually need a Social Security number. Transamerica will accept applicants who don’t have one.
|John Hancock||Minnesota Life||Mutual of Omaha|
Important documents for foreign life insurance applicants
Applying for life insurance if you’re a U.S. citizen is pretty simple. Visa holders will need a few more documents, but nothing that’s too surprising considering they’ve already gone through the entire visa application process.
First, applicants will obviously need to produce a copy of their green card or visa. They’ll also need to complete a foreign resident questionnaire that asks basic questions about the applicant’s health, employment status, and travel history.
As mentioned, applicants will likely need to provide a Social Security number. Other numbers or forms that might be required include an individual tax identification number (ITIN) or a W-8BEN – a Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting. There may also be state-specific forms confirming residency in a state, depending on where the applicant lives.
It’s also important to note that life insurance carriers will likely require that any necessary medical exams are performed in the U.S., and that premium payments come from a bank account located in the U.S.
Country classifications and limitations
Just because a life insurance carrier covers a type of visa doesn’t mean that they can cover every applicant with that visa. That’s because there are limitations on which countries of origin carriers can provide coverage for.
Some of these limitations are set by the U.S. State Department, and exclude places like North Korea, Iran, and Syria. These are the same across all carriers and are subject to change at the whim of the federal government. Other limitations are set by carriers themselves and will vary by company.
In other cases, carriers may limit the available coverage available to citizens of certain countries. This is done on a rating scale, with carriers providing a letter grade to each country. For example, AIG may give a country an A rating and provide their best classification rates, while a citizen of a D-rated country may only qualify for Standard Plus premium rates and a lower death benefit amount.
If a country has cities that are sufficiently modern (read: Western), exceptions may be made for classifications. China as a whole might be rated as a C, but Beijing and Shanghai are considered B-rated regions.
Finally, other countries might have exclusions themselves as to whether or not citizens are allowed to purchase life insurance policies outside of their country of origin. Insurers may be unable to sell policies to citizens of those countries regardless of their U.S. visa status.
Make sure to ask the insurer you’re applying with how they rate your country of origin, and whether there are other factors like your length of residency in the U.S. that could be affecting your rate. Better yet—have the experts at PolicyGenius do it for you. Our licensed experts will find you the best policy tailored to your specific situation. And the best part? It’s completely free for customers. Find out how much coverage you need and get a free quote today.