The best life insurance companies for visa & green card holders

If you've emigrated to the United States from another country and have a visa or green card, these companies make it easy for you to get life insurance.

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Life insurance adds a sense of security and safety so there’s no worrying about what happens to your family if you die unexpectedly and the house isn’t paid off or you still have student loan debts.

For green card or visa holders in the United States, or U.S. citizens living abroad, there can be a level of uncertainty. Whether you’re a permanent resident, an expat, on the path to citizenship, or simply in the country to study or work for a few years, you have the same needs for financial protection as citizens.

Different life insurance companies treat international or non-citizen applicants differently. Below, we’ll explore the different options for green card holders, visa holders, and U.S. citizens living abroad.

Key Takeaways

  • Green card holders are permanent residents and have the same options for life insurance coverage as U.S. citizens

  • The type of temporary visa you have will determine where you can get life insurance

  • Expats cannot get a life insurance policy in the U.S. while living abroad

  • You’ll need documentation, such as a visa, Social Security number, EAD, or ITIN when applying for life insurance

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 who currently live in the U.S., and perhaps work or go to school, but aren’t classified as U.S. citizens. This category includes visa holders, as well as people with employment authorization documents (EADs), aka work permits.

Green card holders are permanent U.S. residents. You should disclose if you’re a green card holder when you apply for life insurance, but insurance companies will treat your application the same as they treat applications for U.S. citizens.

Why is this distinction important?

Not every life insurer provides the same coverage opportunities for non-permanent residents as permanent residents or citizens. For example, green card holders can apply for coverage with virtually any U.S. life insurance company, but only Prudential and Transamerica will provide that opportunity to EAD holders, as will Brighthouse (with some stipulations, like having an accompanying visa or being on the path toward a green card). Banner, Lincoln, William Penn, and Pacific Life only allow green card holders to apply and do not offer coverage to visa holders, regardless of visa type.

Life insurance for visa holders

Below are life insurance companies that allow some visa holders to apply for life insurance, but there are a few caveats before we dive in. Even if an insurer 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 (i.e., must have lived in the U.S. for at least two or three years)

  • There may be rating limits (i.e., you will only qualify for Standard coverage vs. Preferred)

  • 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.

  • Travel restrictions may apply

Life insurance coverage for visa holders

E3-5Yes†E3 onlyNo
F1-4Yes†F1-2 onlyNo
H1-B/CYesH1B onlyYes
INoIR1 onlyNo
Conditional green cardYes†Yes†No
Green cardYesYesYes

Additional restrictions may apply

Information based on policies offered by Policygenius as of 11/17/2020.

Life insurance coverage for visa holders, cont

Conditional green cardYesYesYesYes
Green cardYesYesYesYes
EADNoYesNoC33 only

Additional restrictions may apply

Information based on policies offered by Policygenius as of 11/17/2020.

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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.

First, you’ll need to produce a copy of your visa. You’ll also need to complete a foreign resident questionnaire to answer basic questions about health, employment status, and travel history.

As mentioned, applicants will likely need to provide a Social Security number. If you have a visa, but do not have a Social Security number, talk to a licensed insurance agent before applying to learn about your options.

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 you live.

It’s also important to note that life insurance companies 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 company covers a type of visa doesn’t mean that they can cover every applicant with that visa. There are limitations on which countries of origin insurers 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 some cases, insurance companies may limit the available coverage available to citizens of certain countries. This is done on a rating scale, with companies 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. Some regions within certain countries might also receive different ratings than others.

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.

What happens to your life insurance policy if you move abroad?

If you already have life insurance in the U.S.

Most insurance companies require you to disclose any known international travel arrangements when you apply, so they can factor in any risk the travel might pose. It’s important to tell the truth in your application to avoid insurance fraud, which can lead to a denied death benefit for your loved ones. If you move abroad after you have your policy in force and it’s past the contestability period, your coverage will last as long as you pay the premiums and if you die abroad, your loved ones will receive a payout.

If you’re an expat and want to buy life insurance in the U.S.

For expats looking for life insurance coverage, if you didn’t secure coverage before you moved abroad, you’re unlikely to get insured with a U.S. company. Life insurance companies typically require the policyholder to sign and complete their medical exam in the U.S., so you’ll likely have to seek out other options for life insurance in the country where you’re living, or wait until you return.

Still need help? Find the best life insurance company for you.

Life insurance for green card and visa holders FAQs

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to have life insurance?

You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to buy a life insurance policy in the U.S. Life insurance is available for temporary and permanent U.S. residents, such as visa and green card holders.

Can a non-U.S. citizen be a life insurance beneficiary?

Generally, your beneficiary does not need to live in or be a citizen of the U.S., but it could complicate or delay the claims process by several weeks. Some insurers require additional documentation for beneficiaries who are claiming a death benefit outside of the U.S., or who are not U.S. citizens. But as long as your beneficiaries have bank accounts or can receive a check in the mail, the insurance company will pay out a death benefit.

Can undocumented immigrants get life insurance?

There are very few options for applicants who do not have any form of documentation, such as a visa, Social Security number, an EAD, or ITIN because it makes it nearly impossible for insurers to assess risk. However, there are options for people in the U.S. who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA ) or refugee status, depending on the insurance company.