Life Insurance for Foreign Nationals [full guide]

Life insurance for foreign nationals in the US is possible, if you apply with the right company.

In this guide, we will go over why a foreign national might need life insurance, the basic requirements, available products, and much more. There is a ton of valuable information to help you find the best solution for you and your family.

The guide is very comprehensive, so we’ve divided it into several topics. Feel free to click on the links most relevant to you.

Here’s what you can find more information about

Who is a Foreign National for insurance purposes
Eligibility requirements
Available products to foreign nationals
Acceptable visas and residency requirements
What life insurance for foreign nationals just makes sense
Important information to consider (don’t skip this step)

When it comes to life insurance for foreign national, not all companies are the same. In other words, one company may approve you for the best class available, while others decline your application solely based on your immigration or residency status.

If you have a specific question or would like us to go over your personal situation, please reach out to us. You can contact us via phone, e-mail, or leave us a comment.

Who is considered a Foreign National for insurance purposes

Foreign national is a broad term used by many life insurance companies when underwriting a client’s residency or visa status. But, who exactly is a foreign national when it comes to life insurance and are you considered one.

Every company uses different guidelines as to who is a foreign national and who is a US resident for the purposes of getting life insurance. Here are just some of the basics:

If you live (spend more than 6 months ) outside of the US:

In his case, most life insurance companies will consider you a foreign national for the purpose of insurance, regardless of your citizenship. What does this mean exactly?

You will need to demonstrate the need of the US base coverage and show the company a strong financial tie to the country (more on that below).

In addition, the companies may have limitations of the product types available. Some companies will offer only permanent life insurance products for clients living outside of the US, regardless of their citizenship.

Exclusions: Lincoln Financial and Prudential may offer term insurance policies to clients living outside of the US, if they have strong financial ties to the US and a global net worth of over $1M and $2M respective of the company.

If you live in the US, but are not permanent resident or a US citizen

If you have been living in the US for a while, whether on a visa or without one, you will fall into this category.

When underwriting your life insurance application, companies will look at the following:

  • How long have you been living in the US
  • Is your intention to remain in the US
  • Financial connection to the US
  • Visa type etc.

Back to Top

When approving life insurance for foreign nationals, companies are looking for financial ties to the US. You have to have a reason or need to purchase life insurance in the United States – basically, you need to be able to answer the question: “Why does getting life insurance in the US make financial sense?” Are you looking for a policy to cover your final expenses, or do you need to provide for your family?

Financial ties to the US (also known as Nexus)*

  • Own real property in the U.S.
  • Own a business in the U.S.
  • Married to a U.S. citizen who resides in the U.S.
  • Ownership of verifiable U.S. assets for a minimum of 6 months
  • Have a tax liability in the US
  • Reside in the US for a specific length of time
  • Hold an approved US visa

*What is considered Nexus varies amongst the companies. For a review of your circumstances, simply reach out to us. 

Be a citizen from an approved country or live in an approved country for residency

This is one of the first things we would like to go over.  Due to global economics, government policies, and world events, your country of residence matters. There are 2 reasons for this:

  • Insurance companies do not offer coverage to permanent full-time residents of certain countries due to current US legal restrictions.

As of 2021, these countries are Afghanistan, Colombia, Cambodia, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Russia and Zimbabwe 

  • While acceptable from a risk perspective, certain countries do not allow their permanent, full-time residents to purchase life insurance outside of the country.

As of 2021,these countries include but are not limited to Argentina, Canada, Japan, France, and Switzerland.

Please note that there are now life insurance options for Japanese citizens. 

Due to their unique characteristics, China, Mexico, Canada, and the Philippines fall into a special category and have different guidelines. You can review the dedicated post we’ve created for the citizens of each country by clicking on the county’s name

We would like to point out that either of the lists of countries can change at any time. We will do our best to keep it up-to-date.  You can also check the United States State Department’s travel warning list.

Be in the US for the application and policy acceptance process

Be present in the United States during the process; there are no exceptions to this rule. An individual needs to be present in the country during the 4 steps of getting life insurance:

Please note, some companies are now allowing a Limited Power of Attorney (LPOA). This means that you can appoint someone in the US to accept the policy on your behalf.

This is especially helpful, if you are not able to stay in the US for the entire application process, as it could take anywhere from 4-8 weeks.

LPOA needs to be signed while you are in the US and it must be notarized. We have helped many clients finalize their policies through the execution of the LPOA.

Reach out to us for more information on Limited Power of Attorney and to see if setting one up makes sense in your situation. 

Quick Tip:

If you are unable to be in the US for the application process, do not let that stop you from securing the coverage that your family needs. We were able to contract with a carrier that can offer global life insurance.

Life Insurance for Foreign Nationals The complete Guide

Back to Top

When it comes to underwriting life insurance for foreign nationals, companies ask about their current visa and residency status. Many will determine eligibility based on the type of visa, length of stay in the US, and many other factors. To more easily explain the different alternatives, we’ve broken down the different categories:

Permanent residents and US citizens:

  • Living in the US 
  • Living/working outside of the US

Non-permanent residents (have a visa)

  • Living in the US
  • Living/working outside of the US

Undocumented (or with an expired visa)

Chances are, you would fall into one of these categories. We will dive in a bit deeper and outline the available options (read below).

Permanent residents/US citizens living in the US

If you fall into this category, you would be considered a resident for the purpose of insurance, and the foreign national guidelines would not apply. You could secure coverage with just about any insurance company.

The thing to pay attention to is that some carriers require you to be a permanent resident or be in the US for a minimum of 2 years. In other words, you might still need to be mindful of the company’s guidelines when applying for life insurance. 

Permanent residents/US citizens living outside the US

You would fall into this category if you are a US citizen or permanent resident and you are currently living abroad. We dedicated separate guides and options to secure coverage based on different circumstances. 

Life insurance for expats

Americans working abroad

Life insurance for an international key employee

Life Insurance if renouncing US citizenship

Non-permanent residents (have a visa) living in the US

When it comes to life insurance for non-permanent residents, there are several factors that companies will consider. The biggest ones are the type of visa you have, the length of stay, and your intentions. We’ve dedicated several different guides based on visa:

Please note that some companies are able to offer life insurance with living benefits to visa holders. Living benefits allow you to use your life insurance while still alive. They are available on term and permanent types of life insurance. In other words, you do not have to die for your policy to pay out.

Non-permanent residents (who have a visa) living outside the US

There are additional things that you need to establish in order to provide or justify the need for coverage. Companies are looking for financial ties. In other words, if you are not a US citizen or a person who lives in the US, why do you need to have a policy in the US? We’ve dedicated an entire guide outlining if you could buy life insurance if you live outside of the US and what every foreign national needs to know about life insurance. 

Undocumented (or with an expired visa)

First off, we want to advise you that you do have options for life insurance without a green card or if your current immigration status is unclear. The companies would be looking at several factors. Unfortunately, not every company would consider you for coverage. The key points are that you need to be in the US longer than 1 year and have an SSN or an ITIN. For a complete list of requirements, available policies, and costs, you can review our guide on life insurance for undocumented immigrants.

Back to Top

Available products and coverage amounts

We can’t emphasize enough how unique everyone’s situation is.  The majority of the life insurance coverage options that are available to US residents could also be available to foreign nationals and non-US residents.

Term policy: it provides life insurance coverage for a specific duration of the selected term. It can be 10, 20, 30 years. This type of policy offers the highest amount of coverage for the least amount of premium. However, once the term is up, the policy will change to a renewable term, and the premiums will skyrocket. Term policies do not build cash value.

Permanent policy: currently, there are different products available that fall into this category. The main characteristic of a permanent policy is that it provides a lifetime of coverage. It can also build cash value. The biggest drawback is that the premiums are more expensive compared to the term products.

Keep in mind that both could be used as part of an efficient tax planning strategy to minimize your tax exposure as a foreign national.

Final expense policies: while these policies are typically permanent insurance, such as whole life, they have different criteria and options. Therefore, we’ve created separate guides for final expenses for foreign nationals and policies without a green card

It is very common for adult children of foreign nationals to secure a life policy on their parents. Oftentimes, this is a permanent policy designed to cover any final/burial expenses.

Often times, we are asked what the best option is for foreign nationals. Are term or permanent insurance plans a better fit? There is no universal answer to which is better. However, we are strong believers in creating a comprehensive strategy around planning for life insurance. Therefore, we created a guide outlining the best life insurance strategy. It applies whether you are here on a visa, without a visa, or are on the path of becoming a US citizen.

Please note:

There are instances where life insurance companies can offer only permanent and term policies that may not be available for you. Please let us review your situation and advise you of your options. Over the years, we have come across many mistakes when it comes to buying life insurance as a visa holder, and we would like to help you avoid them.

Keep In Mind

Available policy limits:

Many carriers require a minimum of $250,000 coverage for foreign nationals. Please keep in mind if you apply for coverage higher than $1,000,000, the life insurance company may require additional financial information.

Back to Top

Why life insurance for foreign nationals makes sense

The question of why I am considering life insurance should be the very first one you need to ask yourself. However, when it comes to life insurance for foreign nationals, there is another big piece of the puzzle you need to factor in. It is your future plans. In other words, where do you see yourself in the next 5–15 years? Do you envision yourself spending the remainder of your life in the US or you consider returning to your country of origin? We’ve dedicated an entire list of why life insurance for foreign nationals makes sense.

In addition, life insurance could be a very powerful tool to help maximize the value of your estate and preserve your wealth as a foreign national.  If this is your objective, we would recommend you take a closer look at a product designed to do just that.

Here is an example:

Luca, a resident alien, was born in Italy and is a citizen of that country. Eight years ago, he relocated to the U.S. to start a new job as an executive in Miami, where he continues to live and work year-round. Luca now owns a home, real estate, cars, and other investments in the Miami area. He also owns a home in Italy. Luca’s worldwide assets (in this case, assets in the U.S. and in Italy) may be subject to the U.S. federal estate tax. He can purchase life insurance that, with proper planning, could be used upon his death to offset any U.S. federal estate taxes.

Life insurance is a very powerful financial tool. It has many benefits, including the peace of mind that you are doing the best you can to protect what matters most to you.

Back to Top

Does life insurance plan provide worldwide coverage

Will a policy cover me anywhere in the world?

Most US life insurance policies are designed to cover you worldwide. Here is more information on how to plan and what you will need to provide the company with:

Life insurance companies would like to know about any future travel plans to foreign countries. International travel affects your life insurance, so please be prepared to provide:

  • duration of travel
  • the reason (work or pleasure)
  • countries you are planning to visit.

Companies will review the information and could possibly deny an application if they believe that there is an additional risk. Some of the things they are looking out for are the risk of terrorism, the possibility of health hazards such as epidemics or famine, and the quality of medical care available. Make sure you disclose your travel plans to the company. for more information, you can read will my insurance payout if I die abroad.

Back to Top

Selecting a beneficiary on your life insurance policy

How to select a beneficiary as a foreign national?

A beneficiary is a person who would receive the death benefit should you pass away. You can name multiple people on the policy or even an organization. The main thing companies are looking for when underwriting the beneficiary is whether there is a clear insurable interest. In other words,  would they suffer financial loss should you pass away? 

Keep in Mind,

This is important. You can NOT name someone as a beneficiary because you “want them to have something.” There needs to be an insurable interest. In fact, we’ve seen firsthand that carriers are declining coverage just because of a lack of insurable interest.

One question we get A LOT is: can you name a foreign national as a beneficiary on their US life insurance policy? The straightforward answer is yes, as long as there is clear insurable interest. However, there are several things that you have to consider, especially if the beneficiary is living outside of the US.

Last thing to consider when naming a foreign national as a beneficiary to your life insruance policy:

  • Do they speak English
  • Do they have a US bank account
  • Can they travel to the US if needed
  • Will they have any tax consequences in their home country

While these are necesseraly things that will prevent a foreign national to receive the money from a life insurance, it is something to consider and plan ahead.

We have created a comprehensive guide on some of the most common mistakes foreign nationals make when it comes to life insurance.

Back to Top

What documents would a company need?

Are there any specific documents life insruance companies will need to underwrite foreign nationals?

Yes, when it comes to applictions from foreign nationals, compnaies will ask for additional inforamtiona as a form of identity verification

Every situation is unique and we can generalize everything. However, these are some of the most common documents or pieces of information companies would need when underwriting life insurance for foreign nationals:

  • Full name and date of birth
  • Social security number or ITIN, if you have one. They would use it as a form of identification. We created a separate guide on life insurance with an ITIN.
  • A government-issued ID (ID card or a Driver’s license), if you have one
  • copy of your valid passport
  • copy of your visa (permanent residency card) and your A-Number
  • W-8 form
  • I-94 form
  • Any other documents satisfying your financial ties to the US (property deed, financial statements, etc)
  • Medical records, translated into English—companies may request a copy of your medical records. It is on a case-by-case basis. However, if your records are from abroad, you would need to obtain them and have them translated into English. A good thing to mention is that some companies would be able to review your records if they were in Spanish, with no need for translation.

Back to Top

Payment options for coverage

How can I pay for my life insurance

The life insurance premium must be paid in US dollars and drawn on a bank account in the U.S. Some companies require the bank account to be opened for more than 180 days (some companies require 90 days).

All premium payments must comply with applicable OFAC and anti-money Money Laundering procedures.

Back to Top

Do I always need a medical exam?

Are no exam life insurance options available to non US citizens?

Yes, there are companies that could waive the exam requirements for non US citizens and green card holder.

This is a common question we get. Unfortunately, when securing life insurance for foreign nationals, the answer is: It depends. There are many companies that will NOT require a medical exam. However, we would need to evaluate your options and can advise you if you have a chance of getting your application accelerated without the need for a lab exam. 

Keep in mind that through technology and more precise data analysis, companies are able to approve more policies for an exam. However, you still need to medically qualify for coverage. Skipping the exam does not mean that you will not have to answer health questions or have the company review your medical record. 

Back to Top

How long is the application process?

How long it will take to secure a policy as a foreign national

There are several factors that will determine the application time. It could vary from a few days to 8 weeks, depending if you are in the US, coverage amount and other factors.

Again, the answer to this question is: it depends. Factors such as what type of policy you are applying for, whether you qualify for a no medical exam, and whether you live in the US will determine the length of the application process.

  • Typically, if you are applying for a final expense policy (no medical exam, coverage up to $30–50,000), you can have instant approval or have your policy issued within 1-2 days. These types of policies have the fastest turnaround time.
  • If you are applying for traditional coverage (term or permanent), the turnaround time will depend on how fast you can complete the exam (if one is required) and if the company needs your medical records or not. On average, obtaining your medical records is the longest step of the process. On average, you can have your policy issued between 2 and 8 weeks from start to finish. 

We have created a separate article about 10 of the most common questions we’ve received when processing life insurance for foreign nationals.

Back to Top

In Conclusion,

According to the US Census, nearly 13% of the population is foreign-born. The numbers are increasing and speaking for themselves. Therefore, we felt the need to create this guide for life insurance for foreign nationals. We want to be the resource for people born outside of the US or living abroad and are inquiring about life insurance.

When it comes to life insurance for foreign nationals, there are additional guidelines and requirements that companies have. Therefore, it is essential to work with the right insurance carrier, as not everyone would approve coverage. Every company would look at you differently based on your immigration status. Some carriers are more lenient and have products tailored to life insurance for immigrants, while others don’t. Let us review your personal situation and help you navigate the world of insurance. We specialize in life insurance for foreign nationals.

We hope you find this guide helpful If you have any questions we did not cover, feel free to reach out to us!

Thank you!