Car Insurance For International Drivers in the US on a Visa

Car insurance for international drivers in the US with a visa varies by state, including whether car insurance for an international license is accepted. At the end of the day, you must carry the correct coverage to drive legally. Contact the state DMV to make sure you can get the right car insurance with a visa. You may also take advantage of several auto insurance options while visiting the United States on a visa, including rental car insurance or insurance through your credit card.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Sep 17, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • When you come to the United States on a visa, you must follow the law carefully to enjoy certain privileges such as driving
  • Laws that regulate driving while on a visa vary from state to state. So make sure you contact the DMV of the state you will be living for specifics
  • You can take advantage of several options for auto insurance while visiting America on a visa including rental car insurance or insurance through your credit card
  • Always compare several insurance providers before choosing one

Whether coming to the United States on a work, student, or temporary visa, if you plan on driving, you will need to get car insurance. This is true whether you’re on a short vacation or planning to live here for an extended period. Even if it’s just a week, buying insurance from your rental car agency could give you peace of mind and save you thousands if something happens to the car. If you’re living in the US, not having the proper insurance could lead to you losing your driving privileges and more.

Read on to learn all about visas and car insurance in America then enter a U.S. zip code to compare quotes from many different auto insurance companies!

What are the requirements to drive while in the United States?

Some of the laws that regulate driving while on a visa vary from state to state. You can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in the city where you will be living for specific laws. One of the most important things for foreign nationals to do before driving in many states is to get the proper international drivers permit. It acts as a translation tool and can be used in a variety of different countries and languages.

Keep in mind, the US does not issue international driving permits to current residents. You’ll need to get your international driving permit before you move with the motor vehicle department that oversees the license you have. In other words, if your drivers license was issued in France, you would need to visit an office in France.

In most cases, you cannot register for an international driver’s license from America once you move, although there are some exceptions to this rule. You cannot get car insurance without an international driver’s license.

International driver’s licenses only last for one year. If you have a visa that will be longer than that, you need to apply for a license in the state in which you live. Again, different states have different laws that govern those on visa status, so do your due diligence.

This could mean you’ll need to return to your country of origin or make arrangements with your country’s motor vehicle department once a year to renew your permit. Be very cautious of anything not directly connected to them. Unfortunately, there are many scams that take advantage of those looking for international permits, visa insurance, and more.

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What kind of insurance options do international drivers have in the US?

There are many car insurance options available for those who are visiting the United States on a visa with an international driver’s license.

First, if you will be in the United States on a temporary visa for six months or less, the best option may be to rent a vehicle which comes with car insurance. With renter’s insurance, you will have to pay an additional fee.

Second, if you have family in the states, they can add you to an existing car insurance policy. They would add you as an international driver on their policy. Once added you would make payments to your family member for the cost.

Being added to an existing policy will be cheaper than setting up your own policy and can even serve as a temporary solution until you get settled. Of course, your family member has to authorize you as an addition to the policy.

Third, you can obtain car insurance through your credit card. If you rent a car using your credit card, you may already have car insurance coverage for no additional fee.

You should always consider your timeline and other plans. It doesn’t make sense to get a long-term insurance plan of any kind if you’re only staying a few weeks. But it could make sense to find a good insurance company you trust if you plan to get a college degree or otherwise stay for an extended period. You’d want to compare minimum coverage with more comprehensive coverage and make an informed decision. If you get a few quotes,  a comprehensive coverage plan could be more affordable than you might expect.

Check with your credit card company as well as with the car rental agency to make sure this option is available.

Where should you shop for car insurance for international drivers?

If you are going to drive with an international driver’s license, you must have car insurance. If you decide on traditional car insurance, you can research U.S. companies that offer car insurance for international drivers before you come to the United States. Some of those companies may also offer visitors medical insurance options.

Many of the large companies in the United States offer this kind of insurance but most of the smaller or family owned companies in the United States do not.

One of the best ways to study your options is with an online comparison tool. A comparison tool will help you see rates and quotes side by side. You can look at policy options and find the one that will fit best with your overseas travel plans. When you go online, you can run multiple quotes at once getting comparable coverage to see who is actually offering the most competitive rates. You can also contact an insurance agent to run quotes and discuss your options.

Having this information ready when you apply for your insurance will be helpful. Coming to the United States already prepared will make your transition a lot simpler.

Where can you get a medical insurance plan on an international visa?

If you’re moving to the US on a visa, you should also consider your health insurance options. Medical expenses can be extremely high, and the rates you get elsewhere likely won’t match what you see in the US without insurance.

There are clinics that provide medical care to those without US insurance. If you work for an international company, they may also provide insurance that can be used in different countries including the US. This is especially common for companies now using self-insured plans. While you’re shopping for auto insurance, make sure to consider your health options as well even if it’s just for emergency medical treatment.

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