Obtaining suitable automobile insurance for non-US citizens depends on how long the individual will be in the country. Before arranging coverage, the visitor will need to get an International Driving Permit.
Driving Without Insurance
Driving without car insurance is a criminal offense. A person who does not have car insurance in place may be subject to loss of driving privileges and a large fine. When a driver who does not have insurance is involved in a motor vehicle accident, he or she is personally responsible for the damages caused, as opposed to the insurance company paying for damages.
International Driving Permit
The International Driving Permit (IDP) allows people holding a valid driver's license to operate a motor vehicle while traveling in a foreign country. Valid IDP holders are not required to pass any tests or apply for a license in their destination country. Once the document has been issued, it is valid for 12 months.
The IDP is available in nine languages. This document is valid in approximately 150 countries worldwide. It can also be used as a form of identification, if required, and can be handy for a traveler whose passport is secured in a hotel safe or elsewhere who needs to show proof of identity.
The IDP must be issued in the traveler's country of origin. A local automobile association office may be able to provide one. A person planning to travel to the United States can also check with a travel agent to find out more about getting an IDP before starting his or her trip.
These organizations may be able to help a traveler obtain an IDP:
- Automobile Association (UK)
- Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (provides a list of international auto clubs)
Obtain Automobile Insurance for Non-US Citizens
Non-US citizens visiting the country for a relatively short vacation can get insurance coverage through a car rental company. These agencies also offer insurance coverage to residents of the US when they rent a car. While a US citizen who already has car insurance coverage in place has the option of declining additional protection offered by the rental company, a visitor must have car insurance in place to drive legally.
When the visit will be a longer one, such as due work or school, renting a vehicle may be too expensive. In that case, the visitor may wish to buy a car for the time he or she will be in the country. The vehicle can be sold when the traveler returns home.
Before trying to obtain car insurance in the United States, a traveler should check with his or her current insurer to find out whether they are covered while driving in a foreign country. Residents of Canada or Mexico may be covered under their current policy while traveling to the United States and do not need to make any special arrangements.
Visitors from other countries may need to buy a short-term car insurance policy from a US company. Many insurers will offer coverage for a term that is less than one year, provided that the applicant can provide a billing address in the United States.
A person who will be staying in the United States for more than one month may want to consider buying a traditional car insurance policy, since they may be able to get coverage for a lower rate. Before doing so, it's a good idea to confirm with the company that a refund will be provided when the customer cancels the policy around the time he or she returns home.
Getting car insurance coverage when an individual is not a US citizen is a slightly different process from the process used when citizens need to arrange coverage. The key to doing so effectively is to make a plan to obtain an IDP and getting this valuable protection before leaving the home country.