International visitors to the United States often find it convenient to have a car to get from place to place. Whether in the country short-term or long-term, they must still adhere to U.S. car insurance requirements to get behind the wheel legally. This might mean acquiring special car insurance. In this article, we’ll describe the types of car insurance international citizens must purchase to drive in the U.S.
Car Insurance Requirements in the U.S.
The U.S. requires all drivers — both residents and nonresidents alike — to carry car insurance if they plan to drive a car in the country. The type of coverage each driver needs depends on how long they plan to stay in the U.S. Drivers from foreign countries staying in the U.S. for several months or more might also need to get a driver’s license from the state where they reside.
Car insurance requirements for foreign citizens vary by state. In Illinois, all drivers must carry liability coverage of at least 25/50/20, as well as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Here’s how this breaks down:
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person.
- $50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident.
- $20,000 in property damage liability.
- $25,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury liability per person.
- $50,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury liability per accident.
Liability insurance pays for another driver’s car repairs and medical bills if you’re at fault in an accident. Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance pays for your own expenses if another driver who doesn’t have insurance causes an accident. Another common insurance option, personal injury protection, pays for your medical expenses no matter who’s at fault in an accident.
If you’re visiting from another country and acquire a car insurance policy that meets these legal limits in Illinois, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ll still be covered if you travel through or to another state temporarily.
Driver’s License Requirements in the U.S.
To drive legally in the U.S., you must have a current foreign driver’s license. You can use this to drive legally in Illinois if you’re only planning to be in the country for a short period. After 90 days, however, you must acquire a state driver’s license through a secretary of state facility. You might also be required to pass vision, written, and driving examinations.
If you’re a student attending school in Illinois or you’re authorized to reside in the U.S. for at least one year, you can get a temporary visitor’s driver’s license. You’ll need to provide proof of your visa and pass written and road exams to get one.
If you’re moving from another country to the U.S. for the long term, you can get an Illinois driver’s license by passing driving examinations and providing proof of your:
- Birth date.
- Social Security number.
- Illinois residency.
While some U.S. states recognize the international driver’s permit from one’s home country, Illinois does not.
Car Insurance for Short Visits
If you’re a foreign citizen visiting the U.S. short term, such as on a business trip or vacation, the easiest way to get car insurance is through a rental car company from which you’re renting a car while in the country. This coverage is similar to a traditional liability insurance policy and will pay for damages and medical expenses in the event you’re involved in an at-fault accident.
If you want extra coverage, most rental car companies offer additional insurance options that pay for any damage the rental car suffers, not just in an accident. Whether you decide to pay for this additional insurance largely depends on your risk tolerance and your level of comfort driving in the U.S.
If you’re driving into the U.S. from Canada in your own vehicle, you likely won’t need to purchase additional coverage. Your Canadian insurance should suffice. Check with your insurer, however, before departing.
Car Insurance for Long Visits
If you plan to stay in the U.S. for at least one month, contact a few U.S. car insurers to obtain quotes, compare rates, and secure coverage so you can drive legally while you’re here. If you intend to lease or buy a car while in the U.S., you’ll need proof that you have the minimum required insurance to do so.
Even if you bring your own car over from another country to drive in the U.S., you’ll still need to purchase car insurance from a U.S. insurance provider to drive legally.
Car Insurance for Undocumented Immigrants
For undocumented immigrants, getting the required car insurance and driver’s license to drive a car legally can be extremely challenging. Immigrants who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are the exception; they can get a driver’s license easily in any state. Otherwise, 16 states, including Illinois, and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. These include:
- New Jersey.
- New Mexico.
- New York.
In Illinois, undocumented immigrants might be able to obtain a temporary visitor driver’s license if they’ve lived in the U.S. for at least one year. Check with individual insurers to learn more.
How Much Does Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers Cost?
The amount you must pay to get car insurance in the U.S. depends on your state of residence, the type of car you drive, and your driving history. Because most insurers, however, can’t easily look up a foreign driver’s driving history, they often charge them higher rates as a result. This is one reason it’s smart to shop around for the best rates before choosing a policy.
Are You Visiting the U.S. From Another Country?
If you’re planning to spend time in the U.S. and want to rent or buy a car while you’re here, you’ll need to be properly insured first. Our team at American Auto Insurance can help you get long-term car insurance at affordable rates. Contact us to get a free quote and learn about the coverages we offer international drivers.