Life Insurance Application: How Long Does Underwriting Take?

How Long Does Life Insurance Underwriting Take
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    Every person who applies for life insurance is waiting to hear the glorious phrase, “Congratulations, your life insurance application is approved!” – but how long does life insurance underwriting take? It varies — by a lot!

    When applying for a life insurance policy, there are several steps that need to occur before you’re approved. It would be great if purchasing life insurance was as simple as buying a pack of gum – everybody would have coverage. Getting approved for life insurance is a bit more complicated than going into a convenient store — for some shoppers, it’s a long process. The good news is — we’re here to show you a quicker and easier way.

    The Life Insurance Application

    You’ve decided that you need life insurance and you want to apply. However, before this happens, you need to decide if you want to apply for a No Medical Exam policy or a Fully Underwritten policy (medical exam required). 

    Depending on which policy you choose — it can vary from almost instant approval to over 2 months! Something you should always understand about life insurance – the price of your premiums is often based on how many details the life insurance company knows about you.

    Life insurance policies with a medical exam provides the insurer more details and the result is typically a lower premium – but a slower application approval time.

    No Medical Exam Application

    *Approvals: Minutes to Days
    *Faster Application Process
    *Policy is More Expensive
    *Still Need to Medically Qualify for Coverage

    Fully Underwritten Application

    *Approvals: 1 to 2 Months
    *Policy Is Typically Cheaper
    *More Policy Options
    *Ideal For Serious Medical Conditions

    How Long Does Underwriting Take With No Medical Exam Applications?

    If you’re in need of a policy quickly then a No Medical Exam life insurance policy is the way to go. As long as you don’t mind paying a little more for the convenience, you can get an application approved anywhere from 10 minutes to several days!

    The approval times will vary depending on the life insurance company. Not all companies have the same application process and their approval times can vary considerably. 

    No Medical Exam Still Requires Underwriting

    You still need to qualify for a No Medical Exam policy. One of the biggest mistakes shoppers make when it comes to No Exam policies is thinking they will avoid the underwriting process.

    Life insurance companies will put your application through their underwriting process by checking on the following:

    Health & Medical Records

    Life insurance companies will request your medical records from your doctor. This process is called an APS (Attending Physician Statement). For almost all life insurance applications, medical records are requested and can cause delays in your application approval. Application delays are typically caused by slow APS delivery.

    Prescription Report

    Insurers check this report to see what medications have been filled and prescribed to you in the past.

    MIB Report

    Your MIB (Medical Information Bureau) report is used collectively by life insurance carriers to help figure out your underwriting risk. It will show if you’ve applied for life insurance in the past as well as if you’ve ever been denied life insurance.

    Motor Vehicle Report

    Your MVR is used by insurance companies to see if you are a safe or risky driver. It will show if you’ve had any DUIs, moving violations or excessive speeding.

    No Medical Exam Applications CAN be Risky

    No Medical Exam policies are great, but there are some risks involved. If your main reason for applying for a No Exam policy is because you’re concerned about a preexisting health conditionYou may not like the outcome. 

    It’s always a good reminder that if you lie on any life insurance application, it’s considered fraud. If a life insurance company finds this out – they may not pay the death benefit. Remember: The point of life insurance isn’t to get approved; It’s to pay a death benefit when your family needs it most. Honesty is always the best policy.

    No Medical Exams can also be more expensive when compared to a traditional policy. The good news is that premiums are getting better every year because more No Medical Exam companies are competing for this business. In some situations the price difference isn’t significant. 

    Your Mind Is Set: You Want a No Exam Life Insurance Policy

    Since you don’t mind paying a little more and you want a policy approved quickly – here’s what you need to do:

    1. Get Quotes: First thing is to get instant no medical exam life insurance quotes here. You can compare rates to policies that require a medical exam here.
    2. Contact us: We can help with customized quotes based on your specific goals, health and lifestyle.
    3. Complete the No Exam Life Insurance Application: Our application is easy and usually requires only a few basic questions. Depending on the company you choose, it can be completed conveniently online or over the phone. Our agents can help complete it for you and send it via email for electronic signature. Easy!
    4. Phone Interview: With some companies, you’ll need to complete a quick phone interview. Some of the application questions you already answered will be asked again. The phone interview may be scheduled anywhere from 1- to 3 days after your application was submitted.
    5. Policy Issue: Your life insurance policy can be approved and issued the day you applied or within a couple of days after your phone interview.  Your policy documents will then be mailed to you. This may take and additional 2 to 3 more days

    How Long Does Underwriting Take With Traditional Life Insurance?

    Traditional life insurance applications with a medical exam take much longer than No Exam policies. 

    If you’ve decided that you don’t mind waiting 4-8 weeks — your bank account is going to thank you.

    …but why does it take so much longer?

    With fully underwritten life insurance policies, there are several parts of the process that take up the majority of the time.

    1. Medical Exam: You will need to schedule the exam, complete the exam, and the company needs to receive the results. If you delay scheduling your exam – it’s going to delay your approval.
    2. Ordering Medical Records: You medical and health records can really slow down (or speed up) the approval time. It can take several weeks for the life insurance underwriter to receive your medical records from your physician. This is often the biggest “X” factor when it comes to delays. Some physician offices are very slow with medical record delivery unfortunately.
    3. Reviewing Medical Records: Once the underwriter receives your exam results and medical records – the underwriting process begins. They’ll analyze everything and sometimes a red flag may appear. The underwriter may need additional information from you (quickest) or order additional medical records (slowest) depending on the situation. 

    You Now Want a Life Insurance Application with a Medical Exam?

    So now you’ve decided that you don’t mind waiting and want to apply for a traditional fully underwritten policy? No Problem!

    The process is simple, first you’ll want to get some quotes and compare life insurance rates here

    People often think that applying for life insurance is difficult or complicated. It doesn’t have to be, especially the way we do it. With all of the technology available today, we use the fastest life insurance companies and easiest methods to apply for life insurance – even with the medical exam.

    Everything is completed online or over the phone to speed up the approval time. Before you do anything, make sure to prepare a little before applying and working with your agent. Make a list of questions you have and write down all your medications and health history. This will make sure your agent can find the best company for your specific goals and health.

    You’ll also want to nail down how much coverage you’ll need. Use our instant needs analysis calculator to see how much life insurance will be needed to protect your family.

    Instant Life Insurance Approval

    There are life insurance policies that can be approved instantly or within minutes. If speed is your number one priority and you want your life insurance policy approved as quickly as possible consider a guaranteed instant issue life insurance policy. These policies are a type of no medical exam life insurance. Some will ask a few questions on the application and some have no questions at all.

    These guaranteed policies use automatic underwriting which allows them to be approved quickly. The drawback with these policies? Some have limited coverage amounts and some have a graded death benefit which means there is a waiting period before the death benefit is available. They’re also more expensive when compared to underwritten policies.

    24 Hour Life Insurance Approval

    Your life insurance policy can be approved in 24 hours or less with certain companies. In less than one day, you can complete your application and be covered with a life insurance policy. 24 hour approvals will not be available for traditional coverage policies. This is only available with No Medical Exam policies.

    1 Week Life Insurance Approval

    Some no exam life insurance companies will take about 1 week to approve your policy. Again, you will not have to participate in a medical exam, but it’s ppossible that you have to complete a phone interview. With a phone interview, an agent or company representative will ask you specific questions similarly to the ones you already answered on your application. Once that is completed, they’ll process the life insurance application and approve the policy. This may take several days or up to a week to finish.

    Signed, Sealed, Delivered…It’s Yours!

    So that about sums it up. Once you’ve gone over quotes and your agent has found the best companies you can qualify for – they’ll send you your life insurance application. You’ll simply complete and sign it electronically.

    Back to your original question: How long does underwriting take?

    It will take anywhere from minutes to months depending on the type of policy and the company you choose to apply with.


    Life insurance underwriting is where life insurance companies evaluate the risk of an individual applying for coverage. If a policy is approved, the underwriting will also determine the premium rates based on health class ratings. Underwriting guidelines are different from company to company and are based on statistical & actuarial analysis of a variety of factors. These factors are used by companies to determine how risky the applicant will be to insure.

    It always depends on the type of life insurance policy and the life insurance company you are purchasing it from. There are additional factors as well that can speed up or slow down a life insurance application. Your application can be filled out and approved in less than 24 hours or it could take several weeks or months.

    For example, if you apply today for a traditional life insurance policy with a medical exam -- it's possible that your policy would be issued in 1 - 2 weeks. In this best case scenario:

    • You schedule your medical exam almost immediately
    • It usually takes around 3-5 days to get approved
    • Usually an additional 5 more days to get the policy issued

    If you are really in a pinch and time is the deciding factor - a No Exam policy will be a safer bet.

    A life insurance underwriter is someone whose job is to make sure that life insurance applicant are charged the correct premium rate for the level of insurance coverage applied for.  A life insurance underwriter requests the appropriate information from the applicant’s driving records, credit check, medical records and more. They take this information and decide on how much of a risk an applicant presents to their life insurance company.

    There are many factors that life insurance underwriters look into before deciding if you will be approved: 

    • Health: Your current and past health history; your family's health history, as well as your age, height, weight and gender.
    • Reason for Coverage: The underwriter will need to know the purpose of the life insurance policy. Will it be for income protection, business, estate planning, final expenses, etc.?
    • Coverage Amount: The policy's face amount or death benefit amount. The underwriter will need to determine if the amount requested is appropriate for the specific case.
    • Current Coverage: Does the applicant already have life insurance? How much? Will they be replacing or getting an additional policy? They will also check with the MIB to see if you've applied and/or been declined life insurance.
    • Occupation & Hobbies: Do you have a dangerous occupation or participate in dangerous activities?
    • Income: Your income will help qualify you for the desired coverage amount. For example, if you make $60,000 a year - you aren't going to be approved for a $10,000,000 policy. 
    • Miscellaneous: Do you use tobacco? Alcohol? International travel? DUI? MVR issues? There are extra underwriting questions that underwriters may need answers to before they will approve your policy.

    Depending on the type of life insurance policy you are looking for, there are a number of different types of underwriting you can go through in the application process.  Each one of these types of underwriting takes different amounts of time, based on the amount of information that the insurance company needs in order to properly assess your risk and premium.

    Bottom Line

    Long story short, life insurance application approval times varies by a lot. Depending on the type of policy, the company, your health, your age — the list is pretty long and approval times can range from minutes to months.

    If you’re in a rush and need a life insurance policy quickly, a No Medical Exam life insurance policy is a great choice. No Exam policies will be more expensive because the company takes on a bigger risk insuring you, but they’re a great option for anyone needing coverage fast.

    Still, for shoppers who don’t mind waiting 4-8 weeks to get coverage, your best bet is a traditional life insurance policy with a medical exam. The fully underwritten process can seem pretty lengthy at times – but technology has sped things up with the life insurance application process and approval times. It can sometimes feel like you’re waiting forever, but the life insurance underwriter is really working to get you the best premium for the coverage you applied for. 

    It is also important to remember that the underwriters job is to ensure that you get the best premium possible for the coverage you need. So, while it may seem like the application is taking forever to be approved, you need to understand that they are working for you -not against you.

    Let us help

    If you are thinking about applying for life insurance, we can help walk you through the process — but I’d highly recommend speaking with us first!

    We have relationships with over 60 of the best life insurance companies and know  their underwriting processes. This knowledge helps us with our recommendation to you based on your specific needs and health.

    Trust us, we’ve pretty much seen it all. We’ve found the life insurance solutions for shoppers who thought they had no options and were otherwise uninsurable.

    Michael Quinn

    Michael Quinn

    Michael is a licensed life insurance agent, expert & owner of Life Insurance Blog. LIB has helped thousands of shoppers understand life insurance and secure affordable coverage.

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