Many residents of the United States use life insurance as a way to provide financial protection to their families. However, non-U.S. citizens may also need life insurance. While it is possible for visa and green card holders to obtain life insurance, it may be a bit more complicated. Many life insurance companies offer life insurance for visa and green holders, not all providers will.

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“Like everyone else, visa holders are also looking for the best possible way to protect their loved ones in the event that they pass away,” explained Simon Huften, President of Life Insurance Canada. “Many of them are here for work reasons and have families who are depending on them. And what better way to financially protect those you care for when you’re not around to do that anymore than getting life insurance?”

If you are a visa or green card holder and you are in need of life insurance, you should be aware of what information you may be asked to provide when filling out an application. Knowing what to expect in advance could help to speed the process along.

The difference between visas and green cards

There are many different types of residents who need life insurance while living in the States. For example, you could be a permanent resident, expatriate or a foreign student.

Susana Zinn is an independent life insurance agent in Los Angeles. She explained, “Both visa and green card holders should have life insurance to protect their families and their businesses in case they pass away and leave behind financial obligations, such as estate taxes, debts, income replacement and future payments, such as college education, daily expenses or house payments.”

However, visas and green cards are two different documents. A visa is issued by the Department of State and distributed via your country’s embassy or consulate. It gives you permission for temporary travel to the U.S., such as work- or school-related travel. Visa holders are also known as temporary residents since they are not U.S. citizens.

“A visa is temporary,” said Elizabeth Ricci of Rambana & Ricci, PLLC, a dedicated practicing attorney for over two decades. “In other words, a visa holder generally has not demonstrated an intention to be in the U.S. permanently.”

A green card, on the other hand, assumes permanence. Unlike visa holders, green card holders become U.S. residents. These residents enjoy lifetime citizenship unless there is cause for deportation. “Green cards do expire after 10 years, and you can keep renewing,” explained Zinn. “Green card holders pay taxes and pretty much do everything like U.S. citizens except vote and have a U.S. passport.”

Whether you plan to stay permanently or are just in the U.S. for a few years, there could be ways to obtain life insurance for your unique situation.

Life insurance for non-citizens

Your options for life insurance will greatly vary from company to company when you have a green card or visa. There are also some companies that will not offer insurance to you and others may limit the type of coverage that you can buy.

There are several factors that may affect your ability to attain life insurance coverage:

  • Country of origin
  • Length of U.S. residency
  • Whether you have a social security number

Coverage and travel limitations may also apply. There are also life insurance companies that offer coverage on a case-by-case basis, which could improve your chances of approval.

How to apply for life insurance with a green card or visa

To receive a life insurance quote, you will need to provide some documentation to the insurance company. There are typically more documents to submit for visa holders than those with green cards, making the process a little more complicated.

These are some of the items you may need to provide to your insurance company as a visa holder:

  • Copy of your visa: Similar to a driver’s license or passport requirement, a copy of your visa will serve as proof of identification for your application.
  • ITIN: Some nonresident and resident aliens receive an Individual Tax Identification Number. This is used as your tax processing number and written in nine-digit form, beginning with the number nine.
  • W-8BEN: This is the Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting. It may be required to show proof that you are a U.S. taxpayer.
  • A foreign resident form: Your insurance company will provide this questionnaire if it is required. It may ask for further details regarding your health, employment and travel history.
  • Social security number: Some insurance providers may also require a social security number, but if you do not have one, that does not necessarily mean that coverage is impossible. Instead, consider speaking with a live agent to explore your options.

Depending on where you live, there may be additional requirements for your life insurance application based on state law.

Restrictions on life insurance for non-citizens

Non-citizens may face specific restrictions for their life insurance policies, including:

  • U.S. limitations: The State Department restricts people from certain countries from purchasing life insurance in the U.S. These countries include Iran, North Korea and Syria. If you are from one of the countries on this list, you will not be able to purchase life insurance in the U.S.
  • Country of origin limitations: Just as the U.S. regulates American life insurance policies, your country of origin may have requirements of its own. If this is the case, you will need to adhere to the regulations of your home country and may be unable to buy life insurance in the U.S.
  • Length of residency: Some insurance companies may require that you provide proof of residency for a certain number of years. If you are unable to meet the minimum requirements for residency, your application for coverage could be denied.

“Roadblocks to insurance might include that the carrier requires U.S. citizenship or that the beneficiaries permanently reside stateside,” added Ricci.

There may be other factors, as well. Zinn explained the difference in requirements for green card and visa holders. “Green card holders have the same options for life insurance as a U.S. citizen. They will need their SSN or TIN in order to apply and, in most of the cases, must be residing in the U.S.A. for at least six months.”

The process is a lot more in-depth for visa holders, Zinn said. “In the case of visa holders, they must have an insurable interest in the U.S., such a property or a tangible sizable investment. The application must be signed in the U.S., as well as the medical tests must be done here.”

However, Zinn advised, “This list varies by carrier, and there are constant updates.”

It may be prudent for visa and green card holders to speak with an insurance agent before deciding on which life insurance policy to buy.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best life insurance company for visa and green card holders?

The best life insurance company for visa and green card holders depends on a number of factors. These include details such as your country of origin, length of residency and type of visa.

How much life insurance do visa and green card holders need?

Figuring out how much insurance you need is one of the first steps that you will need to take before applying for a policy. You may want to factor in your debts, potential burial expenses, how many years of income you want to provide for your family and if you want to leave any financial gifts to family members or loved ones.

How much does life insurance cost for visa and green card holders?

The cost of life insurance for visa and green card holders can fluctuate depending on a number of factors, including the type of policy you choose, the death benefit amount, your health history and your age. Getting quotes from multiple companies is one of the best ways to find the coverage you are looking for at a price that fits your budget.