Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Apr 14, 2022

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In a nutshell...

  • You cannot drive in the U.S. without a driving license and car insurance
  • Some documents will be required before you can get the insurance
  • There are some options you can consider when it comes to car insurance

A non-U.S. citizen who drives in in the country isn’t exempted from the mandatory car insurance laws. If the visitor wants to access a privately owned vehicle, they need to carry their own insurance and maintain it.

The most unfortunate thing is that some insurance carriers will make it impossible to get auto insurance. They have to verify if the non-U.S. resident has a valid driver’s license issued by the state.

 The key is to get an affordable rate on car insurance that will protect and cover their financial wellbeing before they start driving.

A newcomer not only needs to get licensed to drive within the United States but also have the right documents needed to get a personal auto insurance policy.

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Step 1 – Getting Licensed


Driving without an insurance and valid license is illegal. Although some countries recognize driving licenses issued by particular countries, you have to check if your license will be accepted in the state you are visiting.

If you are not coming from Canada or Mexico, consider applying for your International Driving Permit (IDP).

In case you are a resident but you are not a citizen of the U.S., the state you live in may need you to get a state-issued license. To get it, you’ll have to provide your old license and pass all the driving and written tests as a new driver.

Study the tests and learn all the laws to pass them during the first round.

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Step 2 – Gathering the Required Documents

If you are applying for a U.S. driving license, applying for an IDP, renting a car, or even applying for auto insurance, you will need several documents. Most rental car agencies will require you to have your foreign license and IDP.

To apply for the IDP, you will need your license and passport photos. When applying for a driver’s license, the documents needed will vary from one state to the other. Mostly, you will be asked to show:

  • Immigration documents
  • Foreign license
  • Proof of your social security number
  • Passport
  • Proof of residency
  • Valid auto insurance proof

The documents required when applying for personal car insurance are very important. If you fail to offer the appropriate documents, you may not be eligible for a cover.

Some companies may insure you even if you don’t provide all the needed documents, but you will have to pay more for your protection. Here are some documents you should never leave your home country without:

  • An out-of-country license copy
  • International Driving Permit
  • A driving record abstract translated into English
  • A claims history letter showing payout amounts and claim dates

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Step 3 – Pricing the Auto Insurance Cost

Now that you are allowed to drive in the U.S. legally, and you have all the necessary documents, it’s time to get insurance. Start by shopping in the market. Even if you are a non-citizen, you are still allowed to compare rates.

You also have to know the requirements of each insurance provider.

You will notice that some limitations surround the companies that will extend the cover to you and how they will classify you as a driver. Opt for a company that will give you credit for your prior expertise.

Car Insurance Options for Foreigners Staying on a Visa in the U.S.


A non-U.S. citizen who has just arrived definitely pays more for car insurance compared to an average U.S. citizen because they don’t have any local driving record.

Such a record is very important to any insurer as it acts as a base for computing the premium. The drivers also do not have a U.S credit history hence they get higher rates than a U.S. citizen with a similar background.

But some companies focus on covering non-residents. They calculate the rates based on the driver’s record from their home country. So if the record is outstanding, the driver gets lower premiums.

International options for any international driver include:

  • Getting Added to a Car Insurance Policy that Belongs to Someone Else  This is a choice taken by a person who has a relative in the state they have visited. The relative will add them to their own car insurance policy. The family member then pays an additional fee.
  • Renting an Insured Car  If a non-resident plans on staying in the U.S. for six months or more, they can consider renting a car that is insured. It’s wise to rent a car although you may have to pay additional fees.
  • Using a Credit Card  This is another great option a driver can take. They get the insurance automatically after renting a vehicle using a credit card. This is quite appealing since it allows them to get coverage without incurring additional fees.

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Traditional Auto Insurance

A foreigner will not find it easy to choose an insurance provider since they don’t know the market very well. To get the best deal, the visitor has to shop around. Luckily, all this can be done online including comparing the insurance quotes.

It’s important to ensure that the process of comparison is done well so as to get affordable prices.

No matter how strict it is, a non-resident can still get car insurance while in the U.S. Consider all the tips discussed above and come up with a solution that will suit your needs.

Compare quotes today to find the coverage you need at the best price.