How Long-Term Disability Insurance Can Protect Visa and Green Card Holders

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The possibility of becoming too sick or injured to work is a devastating prospect for any physician, and even more so for doctors who rely on a green card or visa to stay in the United States. A long-term disability poses a serious risk to both the earning ability and the residency status of doctors without U.S. citizenship. Fortunately, an own-occupation long-term disability (LTD) policy can offer protection to visa and green-card-holding physicians.

Almost one-third of U.S. doctors were born in a foreign country, and many of these physicians rely on green cards or work visas for their legal residency. Immigrant physicians hold a pivotal place within the U.S. healthcare system, because they are more likely to train in high-need specialties and to work in low-income communities. As a result, protecting the residency status of foreign-born doctors is critical, not just for the physicians themselves, but also for the communities they serve.

 

How do disabilities affect visa-holding physicians?

Most doctors in the United States who rely on a work visa for residency hold H1-B visas. In order to remain in the country, these physicians need to maintain steady employment. If a disability of any kind prevents an H1-B visa-holder from working and earning income, they could potentially lose residency status and face deportation. Fortunately, long-term disability insurance can provide a valuable protective measure to prevent this outcome.

Individual long-term disability insurance is paramount to the financial security of any physician; approximately one in four workers will experience a disabling condition in their lifetime. This loss of income can prove catastrophic for a doctor with a family to support and pressing financial commitments. For doctors with a work visa, the risk is compounded by the possibility of deportation.

A temporary visa-holder can lose legal immigration status if they are terminated by their employer for any reason, including a disability. When this occurs, the individual can consult with an immigration attorney and try to obtain an alternative visa to stay in the country. If they are not approved for another temporary visa, the worker will have to leave the country voluntarily or risk deportation. While there are some legal protections for physicians in this situation, the financial protection of long-term disability insurance can help a doctor maintain residency while they recover from a disability.

How can disability insurance protect residency status?

The benefit payments from a long-term disability insurance policy can allow visa and green-card holders to remain in the country even if a disability prevents them from working. The viability of a work visa relies less on the holder’s actual employment status than on their ability to maintain a reliable source of income that prevents them from becoming an economic burden on the government.

If you are a visa-holder who loses your ability to earn an income, you may not have access to the same safety nets as an American citizen, such as welfare benefits. The United States prioritizes residency for immigrants who are able to actively contribute to the U.S. economy without relying on welfare or other public aid. As a result, when a visa-holder applies to receive financial support from the government, it can raise a red flag and jeopardize their immigration status. The income from long-term disability benefits can offset lost earnings and allow you to stay in the country without requiring any public assistance from the government.

The pressure to remain financially solvent in the event of a disability is especially high for physicians who hold a green card or visa. Therefore, it is critical for foreign-born doctors to invest in true own-occupation long-term disability insurance for maximum coverage and protection. If a partial or total disability prevents you from performing key functions of your speciality, an own-occupation LTD policy will pay you benefits to supplement lost income. While employer-provided disability insurance can be a helpful supplement, these group plans tend to leave policyholders extremely vulnerable to exclusions that restrict their benefit payments. To safeguard their savings and their residency status, visa-holding doctors should invest in a true own-occupation long-term disability policy.

 

Can policyholders receive benefits internationally?

If you are a visa-holder suffering from a disability, you may wish to visit your home country or be around family while you recover. Whatever the reason, it’s common for foreign-born physicians to voluntarily leave the country when they experience a serious illness or injury. However, certain disability insurance policies restrict the amount of benefits they will pay out to policyholders who are residing internationally.

In many cases, a long-term disability insurance policy will only pay 6-12 months of benefits to a policyholder who is outside of the United States. Certain policies are even stricter and exclude all payouts while the individual is abroad. The reason for these restrictions is simple: U.S. insurance companies want policyholders claiming disabilities to be under the medical care of a U.S. doctor. This stipulation may seem a bit ironic when the claimant is a disabled doctor, but it is nevertheless important to pay careful attention to international exclusions on disability insurance benefits.

Typically, an international exclusion will only apply in the case of a disability from which you are expected to recover. If a disability is deemed total and permanent, your insurance company will not need a U.S. doctor to monitor your recovery, and you should receive your full benefits regardless of your location.

Conclusion 

Green card and visa-holding physicians work tirelessly to acquire U.S. residency and employment. Without a strong financial safety net, even a temporary disability can jeopardize their immigration status. True own-occupation long-term disability insurance is one of the few protections for non-citizen physicians in the event of a serious illness or injury. Shop around and consult with one of our advisors to find the policy that will offer you the best protection for the lowest cost.

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