Non-residents are eligible to buy a U.S. life insurance policy in most cases

If you are not a United States citizen, in many cases you will be able to buy a U.S. life insurance policy.

Getting a U.S. based life insurance policy is often easier if you are a non-U.S. citizen who lives in the United States than if you live outside of the United States. But regardless, getting a policy can be accomplished if a person is from a vast majority of countries.

Non-residents do not always tie directly to their country of citizenship for life insurance purposes.  A non-U.S. resident may be anyone who is outside of the United States more than three months per year.  Some examples may include:

  • A person who visits the United States for business or pleasure, but who lives permanently outside of the country. That person may or may not be a U.S. citizen.
  • A person who is going to live in the United States on a temporary basis. This could be an extended business stay, education purpose or another similar reason.  They key is that they anticipate returning to their native country at the end of their stay.
  • A person who lives in both the United States and another country. That person may have a business in the U.S. and a home elsewhere, but they travel to the United States on a regular basis.

Why a non-U.S. citizen would buy a U.S. life insurance policy

For some foreign citizens, especially those who are affluent, buying a U.S. based life insurance policy allows them to benefit from the stability and better rates of higher quality products that the American life insurance industry can offer.  In fact, due to the amount of competition, term life insurance rates in the United States are some of the lowest in the world.

Sometimes, large life insurance policies are not available in a foreign national’s country of residence.  In addition, U.S. life insurance companies practice a greater degree of discretion, meaning individuals seeking confidentiality are more likely to find it with a U.S. based product.

Life insurance policies are expressed in U.S. dollars, and in places where policy distributions are exempt from U.S. tax withholdings, this can create a significant financial advantage on gains in the policy.

In some countries, what is passed along to heirs is predetermined by law, meaning that a person has little or no say how their wealth is distributed upon their death.  Owning a policy in the United States makes it much easier to direct assets than in dealing with laws of a country of residence.

To get the biggest benefit from a life insurance policy, wealthy individuals should use it as a tool as part of their overall financial planning efforts, which will also create the biggest tax mitigation possibilities as well.

Requirements for foreign nationals seeking a U.S. life insurance policy

Applicants must complete an insurance application while they are physically in the United States.  Make sure to answer questions thoroughly and honestly.  An underwriter will raise questions if information found on medical records does not match what is found on an application.

Applicants must take their medical exam in the United States.  It is important to retrieve or bring medical records from your current country of residence so that they can be used as part of the application process.  Life insurance companies generally want to see at least five years of medical records.

After the medical exam, if additional diagnostic tests have been ordered, this could delay the underwriting process and push back approval several weeks.  If you know you have a condition that may require additional testing, it’s best to be proactive and have the tests done before coming to the United States and applying for a policy.

An approved U.S. policy must be mailed to a U.S. address in the same state where a person applied.

The applicant must have some sort of ties to the United States.  Applicants are allowed to apply when they are on vacation or in the U.S. for business, but they cannot just travel to the U.S. for the purpose of applying for life insurance.

As part of the application process, insurance companies will also require that foreign nationals submit a W-8 tax form.

If all things proceed smoothly, it takes about 6-8 weeks to have a policy underwritten and delivered to a foreign national in the United States.  Therefore, it makes sense to plan accordingly beforehand.

Other information that is good to know

  • 70 years old is the maximum age for a fully retained case.
  • Policy minimums are $250,000. Policy maximums are $20 million.  In business cases, limits can go as high as $100 million.
  • Potential applicants are not eligible if they are currently serving in a foreign military, police or government service.
  • To keep a policy current, premiums must be made on time and in U.S. dollars from a U.S. bank account.
  • A person must have a U.S. address for notices and billing.
  • Some carriers will require a policy-holder to submit an ongoing health maintenance record, with medical check-ups every three years.
  • For permanent residents and people with visas and green cards, life insurance application guidelines will vary from company to company. The longer a person has been in the United States, the easier it will be to get life insurance.

Certain non-residents are not eligible

Insurance regulations in some countries and regions of Canada prevent residents from buying life insurance outside of the country where they reside.  Other countries simply offer too much risk for insurance companies, for example, any country currently at war, or undergoing significant civil or political strife, or suffering from famine, an epidemic or a pandemic disease.

Depending on the particular insurance company and due to changing conditions in countries through the world, this list will change from time to time.  Currently several of these countries include:

  • Afghanistan
  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • Burma
  • Cambodia
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • France
  • Greece
  • Haiti
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • North Korea
  • Panama
  • Poland
  • Sudan
  • Switzerland
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

If a person is not a full-time resident of one of these countries, a life insurance company may take that into consideration when determining residency and whether an applicant is eligible for a policy.

Because the list will change, it is best to consult a life insurance professional to verify whether your country is on an ineligible list or not.