Updated: Mar 14, 2024

Life Insurance for Expats and U.S. Citizens Living Abroad

Find out how expats and U.S. citizens should approach life insurance policies while living abroad and still providing financial security for loved ones.
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Expats and U.S. citizens living abroad have reasons why they chose to live outside of their home country.

They may have found a cheaper area to retire to. Others may love the culture of another country.

Some like traveling the world at a slower pace.

No matter the reasons for living abroad, being an expat has challenges when shopping for services you could easily get in the United States.

Life insurance can help protect your family or other dependents if you die.

Most policies pay a lump sum death benefit as long as you’ve held up your end of the life insurance contract.

It gives dependents peace of mind they are financially protected.

U.S. citizens living in the U.S. have plenty of options for life insurance.

Expats may face challenges securing these policies or receiving death benefit payouts.

Here’s what you should know if you’re an expat or U.S. citizen living abroad who is looking into life insurance.

What If You Already Have Life Insurance Before Moving?

You may already have a life insurance policy before you move abroad.

In this case, you’ll need to consult your policy to see what it says.

Some policies may allow you to move overseas to certain countries while leaving your coverage in effect.

Others may not pay out a death benefit if you live in certain countries listed in your policy when you die.

You also want to consider how long you’ll be living abroad.

If you have a 30-year term life insurance policy and are only five years into the term, you have 25 years remaining on the policy.

Even if your life insurance policy won’t pay out a death benefit if you die overseas, it may be worth keeping if the contract allows.

Let’s say you only plan to live abroad for two years.

Keeping your 30-year term life insurance policy could be cheaper than canceling it before you leave and then getting a new policy when you return.

You’ll be older than when you originally applied and may have new health conditions that could increase your rates, too.

Before you move abroad, consult your life insurance company and policy to see what options you may have.

The answers will depend on your specific policy and where you plan to live overseas.

Is It Possible to Get Life Insurance?

Technically, it is possible to get life insurance as an expat or U.S. citizen living abroad for the long term.

It isn’t an ideal process, though.

There are no general rules to follow when it comes to getting life insurance as an expat.

Instead, you’re going to have to do a lot of research.

In general, life insurance for U.S. citizens is designed for people living in the United States.

Living in the United States impacts several aspects of your life expectancy and your access to medical services.

Living in a different country changes those assumptions. This impacts a life insurance company’s ability to correctly price your policy based on the risk of your death.

Some countries are more dangerous than others, as well. Civil wars or other civil unrest could increase your chances of dying.

These risks cause several insurance companies to put terms in their contracts to protect themselves.

These terms may disallow death benefit payments on insured people in those countries at the time of death.

Of course, each life insurance company is different. Some may provide coverage in one country while others may not.

In fact, some life insurance companies may offer life insurance focused on other countries or on a more global basis.

You may find a type of global life insurance, expat life insurance, or international life insurance that allows you to live in many countries other than the United States.

However, these policies won’t insure you no matter where you are around the globe for the same reasons as above.

To make sure you understand what you’re applying for, read the fine print of the life insurance contract.

If you don’t have access to one, ask to see one or ask the insurer if they’ll cover you for the country or countries you live in or plan to live in.

How Does Getting Life Insurance When Living Abroad Work?

When you live abroad, you need to find an insurance policy that will cover you.

This means you’ll need to contact insurers and ask if they’ll insure you as a U.S citizen living in another country.

They’ll want to know what country you live in and if you travel to other countries, as well.

Based on this information, you may or may not be able to qualify for coverage.

Even if the life insurance company is willing to offer you coverage in that country, getting the coverage isn’t easy.

For U.S. life insurance policies, you generally have to complete several parts of the application process in the United States.

Typically, you have to submit an application while in the United States. Even if you do this online, it can’t be done overseas.

Insurance companies can use your IP address to locate where you signed the application and contract.

Even if you use a service like a VPN, doing so could invalidate the contract.

Next, you have to take the medical exam in the United States.

Finally, you usually have to sign the policy and pay your premiums in the United States.

You’d think this wouldn’t be a problem.

You can simply complete the process in a few days the next time you’re back in the United States for a visit.

Unfortunately, purchasing life insurance is generally a drawn-out process that takes weeks.

Your part may not take long. However, underwriters need to carefully consider the results of your application, medical exam, and medical records.

If you’ll be in the United States for a few weeks or months, that may not be a problem.

For people just making a quick trip, this may not work.

You may be able to get life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam.

These typically provide faster approval. Unfortunately, the premiums are usually higher, too.

What Happens If I’m Just Traveling for a Short Period?

Life insurance companies put a ton of information in the fine print of their insurance contracts.

To figure out of you’re still covered when you take a short trip overseas, you’ll need to read your policy.

Your life insurance plans may not pay out if you die in a country on a warning list issued by the U.S. Department of State.

It may exclude deaths in other countries it deems risky, as well.

However, your policy may pay out for other countries.

If you die when overseas, your heirs will need a death certificate that is acceptable to the life insurance companies.

Getting this may be difficult when dealing with foreign governments.

They may not do things the same way they’re done in the United States.

You may be able to get help, though.

Try contacting the U.S. embassy in the country your loved one died in. They should be able to provide guidance on what to do to move forward.

You May Not Need Life Insurance

Not all expats and U.S. citizens living abroad need life insurance.

While a young family with kids that don’t have a lot of money saved up likely needs coverage, some people don’t.

Many expats are retirees that have decided to live overseas.

Retirees that have no dependents or only a spouse as a dependent may not need life insurance at all.

If your spouse could continue living a comfortable life without a lump sum death benefit from a life insurance company, you may decide against coverage.

This is even more true when you consider the higher cost of life insurance as you get older.

Some retirees may still want life insurance, though.

If both people rely on a single spouse’s pension benefit that disappears when they die, life insurance or another solution is likely necessary.

Others may prefer to keep coverage to help cover estate taxes when they pass away.

Ultimately, deciding to carry life insurance depends on your desires and specific situation.

Consider consulting with a financial planner to see if life insurance is something you need for your situation.

If it isn’t, expat life insurance may not be something you need to worry about.

Consult an Expert

Life insurance protects your family financially should you die.

You want to make sure that the death benefit and income protection it offers will pay out when you die.

It’s essential to understand the rules of a policy to determine this.

If you want to know precisely how a term life insurance policy would work for expatriates, it’s best to ask the source.

Consult the life insurance company directly, if possible.

If not, please contact one of their agents to learn more about how life insurance coverage would work for you as an expat.