How long is the life insurance application process?

Traditional policies can take 3 to 6 weeks. Some products can only take a few minutes, or even seconds.
Author: Brian Greenberg CEO of True Blue Life Insurance
Last updated: June 21, 2021

Expect the process to take 3-6 weeks on average; however, products like no medical exam life insurance, instant issue life insurance, and guaranteed issue life insurance are quicker but carry a higher premium when compared with a traditionally underwritten life insurance policy.
Obtaining life insurance can be a notoriously long process — so much so that more than 18 million give up before the process is over. When you review the figures, this consumer apprehension starts to make sense. The average life insurance application can take 3-8 weeks to complete. That’s longer than it usually takes to get a driver’s license or receive mail from around the globe. It can even be longer than the process to get a U.S. passport.

If you’re in the insurance market and you’d like to get a better idea of how long your application might take (and learn what the insurer is doing while you wait), following our step-by-step walk-through will help you better understand the life insurance application process.

The Life Insurance Application Journey, One Step at a Time

Step 1: How Much Coverage Do You Need?

The first step is defining how much insurance you need.

At a bare minimum, True Blue recommends that you have enough coverage to pay off your current debt. However, selecting an amount that covers your long-term debt AND covers 5 years of your income is a much better plan.

Once you’ve decided how much you will need, you can run a quote through True Blue’s life insurance quote engine. No personal contact information is required, and you’ll get a rough estimate of what a policy will cost you. If you want a more detailed and accurate quote, we recommend taking our General Health Questionnaire. Not only will that give you the most accurate life insurance quote but it will also match you with the best life insurance companies and policies if you have some blemishes on your medical history.

Step 2: Filling Out the Application

After you select an insurer, you’ll be asked to fill out your application form. Expect to answer questions about your lifestyle, activities, and occupation. Some questions might feel intrusive or personal — but these are standard questions that pretty much all insurers ask. In most cases, applications take less than 30 minutes to complete, and most are done electronically, which helps save time and paper.

Obviously, the sooner you fill out your application, the sooner you can expect a decision. Whether you submit it by email or fax or you drop it off in person, try to do so within 24 to 48 hours.

Step 3: The Life Insurance Underwriters and Medical Exam

The insurance company will review your application and decide whether to continue with the application process. If the process moves forward, you’ll have a phone interview during which you’ll need to answer basic medical and lifestyle questions. If your answers are to the insurer’s satisfaction, a paramedical exam will be scheduled (if the policy requires one).

Expect to wait a week or two for the exam to be scheduled. Usually, you have the option of requesting that it be done in your home or office, but some insurers might require you to go to their exam center. A blood sample and possibly a urine sample will be taken, along with the same basic vitals that would be taken at a doctor’s office. You’ll also be asked to answer basic medical questions (again) and have your height and weight measured. It shouldn’t take more than about half an hour.

After the exam, there could be a somewhat lengthy waiting period, depending on your medical history and the amount of life insurance coverage you are seeking. The insurer will be waiting for the medical lab to process and send your results, which could take anywhere from a few days to three weeks.

Step 4: Additional Information May Be Needed

If the exam reveals any additional health conditions, the insurer may ask your doctor or hospital for an Attending Physician Statement (APS). This document is fairly expensive to request, so insurers typically only rely on it if they’re giving an application an unusually close examination. Should the insurance company take this extra step, you can add another three to five weeks to the time it will take for your application to be processed.

Whether the insurer requests additional medical records or is satisfied with the exam results, the final step is underwriting.

At this point, the insurance company’s underwriters will conduct an actuarial analysis, in which they’ll calculate your medical and lifestyle risks, and then decide how to price your premiums — or determine that you’re too risky to cover. You may also receive some follow-up calls from the insurer to discuss particulars of any risk factor or a medical condition you reported.

Step 5: The Policy Is Issued

Seven to 10 business days later, assuming everything goes as planned, you’ll receive coverage.

No Medical Exam Life Insurance Policies

No exam life insurance policies are best for people who want a much quicker approval process. As the name implies, these policies don’t require a medical exam. But, you can still expect there to be a review of medical and other records, as well as questions about your overall health.

There is a downside to no exam life insurance policies. Insurance companies typically charge a considerable amount more for them — from 10 to 20 percent more, in some cases.

In addition, you will need to be in good physical health to qualify. As noted earlier, you will have to answer a series of medical questions. The insurer can verify your responses by assessing your Medical Information Bureau report, along with pharmacy records and information from the motor vehicle department.

No medical exam life insurance is best reserved for those in good health who can’t wait for the full life insurance application process, for people who haven’t visited a physician in many years, or for those with a severe aversion to needles.

Additional Factors That Can Affect Your Application Processing Time

We can guarantee that the application process won’t take forever, but it does vary from one person to the next and can be unpredictable. We’ve listed a number of factors that can affect your wait time.

  • Credit checks

    If the insurer requests a credit check, that could delay your application. The reason for a credit check can vary, but usually, it occurs when there’s been a recent financial event, like a bankruptcy. Expect another week or more for full processing.

  • High-value policies

    Applicants who request high-dollar policies will be scrutinized much more carefully than average. Expect a significantly longer waiting period (and possibly more paperwork) if you’re seeking a policy with a high payout.

  • Policy type

    Specialty policies, such as indexed universal life insurance and cash value life insurance, will be considered with extra scrutiny. Instant issue and guaranteed issue life insurance are the easiest/quickest to get, followed by guaranteed universal life.

  • Your age

    Age is a big factor in life insurance, for exactly the reason you expect life expectancy. Typically, the older you are, the longer you’ll wait for a decision. Insurance providers use extra caution when considering applicants of advanced age. But, term life insurance and plans created specifically for seniors are readily available.

  • Medical records requests

    A request for medical records can take a substantial amount of time, so it’s a good idea to call your doctor’s office in advance of a medical records request. That way, they’ll be prepared if the insurer makes such a request. By the way, there’s no cost to you for this — the life insurance company will pay any applicable costs.

  • Omissions in your risk disclosures

    You might be tempted not to disclose any significant chronic health problems you have, but this is not advisable. One reason is that the life insurance company will spend a lot of time and resources verifying the information in your application. For instance, it might peek at your social media accounts. It will probably also check to see if any procedures you’ve had were related to a risk factor, such as a disease or a dangerous hobby. Another reason is that the consequences for lying on your application, called “material misrepresentation,” are not light. You can be denied coverage during the application process, or if your insurer discovers untruths after you’ve been granted coverage, your premiums may be increased, your policy’s death benefit may be reduced, or your coverage could be discontinued.

Know What You Need, and Keep All Parties Accountable

Countless factors can play into how long it takes to process your application, and many of them are beyond your control. Assessing your needs from the beginning is the best bet to ensure that you’ve made the right choice. After that, all that’s left is to keep track of the various parties involved in your application and gently nudge them if they fall into a holding pattern.

Having a proactive agent will help minimize the time and stress involved in getting the life insurance you need. Properly educated agents know exactly what’s needed and how to make the process quicker, so they can get you the coverage you need in less time. Finding an agent who’s focused more on service and less on the commission to be earned will help make the life insurance application process easy and carefree.

No Medical Exam Life Insurance Policies

No exam life insurance policies are best for people who want a much quicker approval process. As the name implies, these policies don’t require a medical exam. But, you can still expect there to be a review of medical and other records, as well as questions about your overall health.

There is a downside to no exam life insurance policies. Insurance companies typically charge a considerable amount more for them — from 10 to 20 percent more, in some cases.

In addition, you will need to be in good physical health to qualify. As noted earlier, you will have to answer a series of medical questions. The insurer can verify your responses by assessing your Medical Information Bureau report, along with pharmacy records and information from the motor vehicle department.

No medical exam life insurance is best reserved for those in good health who can’t wait for the full life insurance application process, for people who haven’t visited a physician in many years, or for those with a severe aversion to needles.

Additional Factors That Can Affect Your Application Processing Time

We can guarantee that the application process won’t take forever, but it does vary from one person to the next and can be unpredictable. We’ve listed a number of factors that can affect your wait time.

Credit checks

If the insurer requests a credit check, that could delay your application. The reason for a credit check can vary, but usually, it occurs when there’s been a recent financial event, like a bankruptcy. Expect another week or more for full processing.

High-value policies

Applicants who request high-dollar policies will be scrutinized much more carefully than average. Expect a significantly longer waiting period (and possibly more paperwork) if you’re seeking a policy with a high payout.

Policy type

Specialty policies, such as indexed universal life insurance and cash value life insurance, will be considered with extra scrutiny. Instant issue and guaranteed issue life insurance are the easiest/quickest to get, followed by guaranteed universal life.

Your age

Age is a big factor in life insurance, for exactly the reason you expect life expectancy. Typically, the older you are, the longer you’ll wait for a decision. Insurance providers use extra caution when considering applicants of advanced age. But, term life insurance and plans created specifically for seniors are readily available.

Medical records requests

A request for medical records can take a substantial amount of time, so it’s a good idea to call your doctor’s office in advance of a medical records request. That way, they’ll be prepared if the insurer makes such a request. By the way, there’s no cost to you for this — the life insurance company will pay any applicable costs.

Omissions in your risk disclosures

You might be tempted not to disclose any significant chronic health problems you have, but this is not advisable. One reason is that the life insurance company will spend a lot of time and resources verifying the information in your application. For instance, it might peek at your social media accounts. It will probably also check to see if any procedures you’ve had were related to a risk factor, such as a disease or a dangerous hobby. Another reason is that the consequences for lying on your application, called “material misrepresentation,” are not light. You can be denied coverage during the application process, or if your insurer discovers untruths after you’ve been granted coverage, your premiums may be increased, your policy’s death benefit may be reduced, or your coverage could be discontinued.

Know What You Need, and Keep All Parties Accountable

Countless factors can play into how long it takes to process your application, and many of them are beyond your control. Assessing your needs from the beginning is the best bet to ensure that you’ve made the right choice. After that, all that’s left is to keep track of the various parties involved in your application and gently nudge them if they fall into a holding pattern.

Having a proactive agent will help minimize the time and stress involved in getting the life insurance you need. Properly educated agents know exactly what’s needed and how to make the process quicker, so they can get you the coverage you need in less time. Finding an agent who’s focused more on service and less on the commission to be earned will help make the life insurance application process easy and carefree.

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About the author
Brian Greenberg author
Brian Greenberg
Founder and CEO
Brian is licensed to sell life, health, annuities, and property and casualty insurance in all 50 U.S. states. He is the author of The Salesman Who Doesn't Sell and is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, an organization that consists of the top 1% of financial advisors worldwide.