The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States is estimated to be 11,300,000 people. It can be not easy to obtain a driver's license and buy a car as an undocumented citizen. Most states do not allow non-U.S. citizens to drive, but some are making it more accessible.
Undocumented immigrants may have difficulty obtaining car insurance. Driving without insurance is extremely dangerous and can result in severe consequences, including deportation for undocumented immigrants. Despite this, many people (both immigrants and citizens) drive without insurance.
This article will explain how non-U.S. citizens can get car insurance in certain states.
Can you get car insurance as non-U.S. citizens?
Non-citizens can obtain car insurance in the United States. However, necessary steps must be taken to get insurance.
If you don't already have a car, that's where you should start. Unless you pay cash, your main impediment is obtaining an auto loan due to a lack of credit. When most immigrants arrive in the United States, they are considered "credit invisible" by financial institutions, whether they are documented or not. This means that even if you had excellent credit in your home country, it will most likely not transfer over, and you will have to start over.
The good news is that establishing credit does not necessitate using a Social Security number. However, you will require an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), a nine-digit number issued by the IRS for federal tax purposes. (The IRS does not provide your personal information to ICE or Homeland Security, according to the American Immigration Council.)
You can apply for a secured credit card and build a credit history with an ITIN. Though they can be challenging to find, ITIN auto loans are available from U.S. banks, credit unions, and even car dealerships to customers who do not have a Social Security number. You can contact financial institutions directly or seek referrals from friends and family.
Buying a used car and paying cash may be a better option, especially if you're trying to avoid debt. To avoid overspending, calculate the total cost of ownership before purchasing a vehicle.
Get a driver's license.
The first step in obtaining car insurance is to get a driver's license. Regardless of their status, every driver who applies for insurance must have a valid license. It's illegal to drive until you're licensed and insured, and it's not worth the risk.
Having coverage protects you in an accident caused by you or another driver. New drivers pay relatively high car insurance premiums; however, your rates should decrease as you gain experience behind the wheel and maintain a clean driving record.
Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C., allow undocumented citizens to get a driver's license. Those states include:
You can apply for a driver's license through the Department of Motor Vehicles if you live in one of these states (DMV). You'll be required to take driver's education courses and pass an on-road test, just like any other driver. You may also be required to drive with a learner's permit, depending on your age and the state.
If you do not live in one of the 15 states, you may be able to obtain a driver's license through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is available nationwide. DACA allows non-citizens to obtain a valid driver's license if they meet specific criteria, which include:
- Immigrated to the U.S. before the age of 16
- Were younger than 31 on June 15th, 2012
- Are living in the U.S. consistently
- Have a GED degree
- Have no criminal record
You may be out of luck if you don't fit into these categories unless your status changes.
Shop for car insurance
You can shop for car insurance once you have a valid state driver's licence. Every state has a minimum amount of car insurance that drivers are legally required to carry, which is typically the cheapest coverage available and provides the least protection.
Before you buy insurance, your provider will tell you how much coverage you require.
To protect yourself from lawsuits, most states require that you have a certain level of liability coverage. Your state may also require drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), and medical payments coverage.
Collision and comprehensive insurance are typically optional coverages. These two coverages, however, are what protect your vehicle. For example, collision insurance will pay for the repairs if you are in an accident and your car is damaged. As a result, collision and comprehensive insurance are advantageous.
When looking for insurance, look for companies that provide coverage in your area. Examine the coverage, discounts, and endorsements they provide. You can also read reviews from research firms such as J.D. Power and check AM Best's financial strength rating.
Find affordable options
Obtain several quotes from various companies to determine which provider can provide you with the best deal for the amount of coverage you require. Most insurance companies offer free online quote generators to enter your information and receive an estimated rate.
If you live in California and cannot afford traditional insurance, you may qualify for the Low-Cost Auto Insurance Program. The program assists California residents in obtaining health insurance if their annual income is less than $29,425 for a single person or $60,625 for a family of four. Although the program only provides the bare minimum of protection, it is far less expensive than purchasing private insurance.
Drivers must have a valid California driver's license, be at least 19 years old, own a car worth less than $25,000, and meet the program's income requirements to qualify for the Low-Cost Auto Insurance Program.
Many insurance companies that provide coverage to undocumented immigrants specialize in non-standard auto insurance. This insurance is typically reserved for drivers who have a history of accidents or traffic violations. However, drivers can be classified as high-risk for various reasons, including their age or credit score (or, in this case, their immigration status). Non-standard policies provide the same coverage terms and limits as standard policies but higher premiums.
Some of the auto insurance companies that serve undocumented citizens include:
- Infinity Insurance (part of Kemper Direct)
- Alliance United
- Bristol West (part of Farmers Group)
The documentation needed to obtain a car insurance policy varies by insurer. Some businesses, for example, may accept a foreign driver's license or consular identification (CID) card in place of a U.S. driver's license or non-ID. Driver's Others will receive an ITIN instead of a Social Security number, and some insurers will determine your policy eligibility based on other identifying information. The simplest way to learn what a specific provider requires is to call and inquire.
Undocumented immigrants will almost certainly pay higher car insurance premiums than U.S. citizens or immigrants with a visa or permanent resident card, even if they had a stellar driving record in their home country. In addition to maintaining a clean driving record in the United States, work on establishing a positive credit history — most property insurers consider an applicant's credit score when pricing a policy, so the higher your credit score, the lower your rate.
Also, check your state's laws to see if you need to show proof of registration to get car insurance from one of these companies. The rules vary by state, but you must first obtain insurance in most cases.
Consequences of driving uninsured
Due to the inability to obtain a driver's license in most U.S. states, which is usually required for getting car insurance, some undocumented immigrants may end up driving without insurance. Unsafe or insufficient public transportation systems frequently exacerbate this problem in many suburban areas, where immigrants increasingly settle.
It's critical to do everything possible to avoid driving while uninsured. Consider asking a coworker who lives nearby for a ride to work or looking for a job closer to home where you can walk or ride your bike.
Although this is not ideal, the consequences of not having insurance are severe. If you are caught driving without it, you may face fines, vehicle impoundment, and even jail time if this is not your first offence. Undocumented immigrants may also face deportation.
It's also not worth the financial risk to drive without insurance. If you do not have insurance, you must pay the entire cost of a claim out of pocket. Accidents frequently result in thousands of dollars of damage, and if that money comes from your savings account, it could put you in debt.
During the coronavirus crisis, Informed Immigrant, a digital hub and network for the undocumented immigrant community in the United States, has compiled a state-by-state directory of resources for immigrants.
The American Immigration Council has fact sheets and special reports on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs.
The National Immigration Law Center provides community education materials on immigrant rights, disaster assistance eligibility, and other topics.
The Immigration Advocates Network's National Immigration Legal Services Directory allows you to search for free or low-cost legal services by state, county, or detention facility.
The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) provides medically underserved communities in the United States, including undocumented immigrants.
- Car insurance is sometimes available for non-U.S. citizens.
- A driver's license is required to get car insurance and allow you to drive.
- States require a minimum amount of insurance coverage.
- People face high consequences for driving without insurance.
There are options for purchasing car insurance if you are an undocumented citizen. Non-U.S. citizens can currently obtain a driver's license in 15 states. If you do not live in one of these states, you may be able to get a permit through the federal DACA program.
You can begin looking for insurance once you have your license. Remember to compare providers and quotes to see which company can provide you with the best deal for your required coverage. It is important to remember that driving without insurance is illegal and carries serious consequences.