Term Life Insurance and Foreign Travel

Term life insurance can affect foreign travel. Life insurance companies assign codes to countries based on the safety of travel to that country. Companies then develop their underwriting guidelines based upon the code categories each country fits within. If you're planning on traveling to countries on the U.S. State Department’s travel warnings list your application will likely be denied. Read our guide for more information on term life insurance and foreign travel.

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Tim is a licensed life insurance agent with 23 years of experience helping people protect their families and businesses with term life insurance. He writes and creates stuff for QuickQuote and other insurance and financial websites.

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Aug 17, 2021

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Americans love to travel. Some of us are regular jet-setters who travel for business while others travel less frequently. And traveling internationally brings its own set of challenges such as having a valid passport, bringing enough money and knowing the conversion rates, and carrying the right type of adapters for your electronic gadgets.

Then there’s the whole issue of travel insurance. Will you be able to get qualified health care if you need it?

And what about term life insurance? Of course, you’re planning on coming home safely, but you don’t want to risk it. If you find yourself without coverage before a big trip, these steps will help you get a policy in place before stepping onto a foreign land.

Determine Your Destination and Trip Duration

Life insurance companies assign codes to countries based on the safety of travel to that country. They consider many factors including war or conflict, famine, disease, limited access to medical care, political instability and economic issues.

The companies then develop their underwriting guidelines based upon the code categories each country fits within. Safer countries will have few, if any, travel restrictions. More dangerous countries will carry heavy restrictions. And countries on the U.S. State Department’s travel warnings list will almost always result in the company declining your application.

This table provides an overview of how this code system works. Please note it’s not a guarantee of coverage, as these codes vary by company and change continuously.

Life Insurance Underwriting Code Categories by Country
CountriesCodesRating Classes
AustraliaABest Class as Qualifed
ChinaBBest Class as Qualifed
Saudi ArabiaCBest Class as Qualifed
LebanonDBest Class as Qualifed
SyriaEDecline or Postponed
ThailandICIndividual Consideration
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The duration of your trip also impacts the rating class you may receive for your policy. Shorter trips of less than eight weeks or so are acceptable. However, longer stays could mean your policy will cost more money.

Life Insurance Underwriting Code Categories by Length of Stay
Country CodeLess than 8 Weeks More than 8 Weeks
ABest Class as QualifedBest Class as Qualifed
BBest Class as QualifedStandard Plus
CBest Class as QualifedStandard
DBest Class as QualifedStandard + Extra Charge
ICIndividual ConsiderationIndividual Consideration
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Be Sure to Research Term Life Insurance Companies

Life insurance companies have guidelines they use for foreign travel. And like all other guidelines, they vary by company. Some are more lenient with foreign travel than others. Depending on your destination, you may need to find one of these companies.

Finding information online about life insurance companies is easy to do. There are thousands of websites available. The problem is there’s little in the way of specific information about company guidelines related to foreign travel.

One reason is the guidelines change regularly based on global conditions. For this information, you’re better off talking with an experienced life insurance broker who can identify a company with guidelines that fit your travel situation.

Complete Your Application and Purchase Your Policy Before the Trip

The term life underwriting process takes time (see guidelines here: life insurance underwriting guidelines). As in 3-4 weeks on average. If you have an upcoming trip planned, prepare accordingly and get your application submitted early.

Be truthful on your application as you don’t want to give the insurance company any reason to deny a death claim. Be as accurate as possible about your travel plans. State how long your trip will be and exactly what cities/towns you will be staying.

Worse case scenario is your application may be postponed by the company until you return. This is more likely to happen if you are traveling to a country on the warnings list.

If possible, do not leave for your trip until your policy has been approved and placed in force. You must receive and sign for your policy in your state of residence, so if you fly off to Europe before your policy is approved, it may not be in force until you return home.

There are some exceptions to this rule depending on the company you apply with and if you prepaid for your policy or not.

Out of Time?

If it’s clear you do not have time to get a traditional life insurance policy in force before your departure date, consider a no medical exam term life insurance policy.

No medical exam term does not require you to complete a paramed exam, which will save you valuable time (learn more about the paramedical exam here: What to Expect From a Life Insurance Medical Exam). The entire application process is done by telephone with an electronic signature, meaning you can have your new policy in force within 24-48 hours.

But as with regular term life insurance, if you are traveling to an unstable country, you will likely have to wait until you return from your trip to get life insurance.

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Other Considerations

Several states have adopted legislation that restricts life insurance companies from using past foreign travel as the sole reason for declining an applicant. This trend was started by the Life Insurance Fairness for Travelers Act of 2007.

The bill was not enacted. However, it spurred similar legislation in these states: CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY and WA. Also, FL and GA state laws prohibit life insurance companies from taking any negative action on an application based upon future travel plans. As a result, many companies do not even ask travel related questions on their applications in those states.

If you are a resident of one of these states, your application could be affected by this legislation. This is a good thing for you as the purpose of these laws are to protect you and help you get life insurance regardless of your foreign travel history and plans

Traveling to foreign countries is exciting. There’s a lot to think about ahead of your trip. Plan accordingly and you can enjoy your adventures to the fullest knowing your life is insured.

Life Insurance and Foreign Travel Update

It has been a while since we last blogged about this somewhat sensitive subject (sensitive to the life insurance industry anyway). In the meantime, the list of states that do not allow the use of foreign travel history or plans to be used in determining the eligibility of a life insurance applicant has grown to a total of ten. The list now includes the following states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Tennessee
  • Washington

These states do not allow life insurance companies to take adverse action based solely on the proposed insured’s past or future lawful travel. They do, however, allow life insurance companies to ask questions on their applications about such travel for the purpose of actuarial research. The lone exception is Florida, which does not allow any reference to foreign travel whatsoever on life insurance applications used in that state.

The life insurance underwriting landscape is changing rapidly regarding foreign travel guidelines. Since 2005, several states have passed legislation prohibiting or restricting the use of foreign travel plans for underwriting purposes.

While still open to interpretation, most insurers have responded to the legislation by avoiding adverse underwriting actions based solely on a proposed insured’s past or future lawful travel in those states where it is now prohibited. These states currently include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington.

Life insurance companies are allowed to include foreign travel related questions on their applications in all states except Florida. Many continue to collect this information, even if only for data collection and research.

In those states where no related legislation exists, life insurance companies continue to scrutinize the foreign travel history and plans of proposed insureds. While guidelines vary by company, it is safe to assume that if the planned destination is found on the U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory List, the application may be declined.

Most life insurance companies have extensive lists of their own that include other countries likely to be declined, as well as acceptable countries. If you have foreign travel plans or travel regularly, it is best to provide this information up front and allow our representatives to contact several companies on your behalf. Doing so will help secure the lowest premium possible for your circumstances.

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