Car insurance for international license holders in the U.S.

Most insurance companies offer car insurance for tourists, visitors, and short-term students in the U.S., but you'll need a valid driver's license. Depending on your home country, your original license may be accepted, or you can apply for an international driving permit (IDP). Standard policy terms are typically six or 12 months, but some insurers offer temporary and shorter policies. If you're a tourist renting a car, you may get a certain amount of insurance through the rental car company.

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Is it possible to purchase car insurance with an international driver's license?

As long as you have a valid license to drive in the United States, you can purchase car insurance. And you don't necessarily need to have a license issued in the U.S. Depending on where you're from and which states you'll be driving in, you may be able to use your foreign license after arriving in the United States. Otherwise, you can apply for an international driving permit (IDP). Learn more about international car insurance.

An IDP supplements your official license and allows you to drive in many countries, including the United States. You can easily apply for an IDP with the department of motor vehicles in your home country. Both short-term visitors and long-term expats to the U.S. can drive on an IDP. However, if you're moving to the U.S. full-time, you may eventually need to make the switch to a U.S. driver's license.

Some insurance companies strictly work with U.S. drivers. However, many major companies, including Progressive, are happy to offer car insurance for foreigners in the USA who have a recognized foreign license or an IDP.

Do short-term visitors need to be insured?

Car insurance for tourists in the USA is required even if you're just visiting. Carrying the state minimum car insurance requirement is mandated whether you own the car or you're just renting.

When visiting the United States

If you're renting a car, you can purchase rental car insurance from the rental company, which will be valid for your rental term and is the easiest car insurance option for tourists in the USA. If you're visiting for several months and will be driving a vehicle that isn't a rental, you need an auto insurance policy. Standard insurance policies last six months or a year, but some insurers also offer temporary policies, designed for a shorter time period. This will allow you to have proper insurance coverage if you'll be driving for less than six months.

When moving to the United States

Non-citizens making a long-term move to the U.S. can drive on a foreign license or an IDP for a set period. The time limit may vary by state, but you can typically drive on a foreign license for three months and an IDP for a year. From there, you can purchase an insurance policy to match that length of time — a temporary short-term policy if you're driving with a foreign license and a year-long policy if you have an IDP.

If you're living in the United States for more than a year and want to keep driving, you'll likely need to obtain a U.S. driver's license. Depending on where you're from, you may be able to take your foreign license to the DMV and have it transferred to an American license. Otherwise, you can book an appointment at the DMV and take a test to be issued a new license. You could wait until your IDP is close to expiring, but it's best to obtain your U.S. license early on if you know you'll be in the country long-term.

Coming to the U.S. from Canada

The rules are slightly different if you're from Canada and driving into the United States. If you're on vacation, you don't need to take any extra steps — your Canadian license and insurance will cover you during your time in the U.S. (just like U.S. visitors to Canada are covered by their U.S. auto policy ).

When relocating from Canada to the United States, however, you'll need to register your car with the BMV or DMV in the state where you'll be living. Once you've done that, you can purchase car insurance in the U.S. and start the process of transferring your Canadian license to a U.S. driver's license.

U.S. car insurance for international students

If you're a student studying in the U.S. with a foreign driver's license, you can purchase an auto insurance policy in any state. You must carry at least the minimum car insurance requirements for the state in which you reside before you can get behind the wheel.

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