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​When you apply for life insurance, there are quite a few steps involved from start to finish. How long it takes to get approved depends on the product you apply for and the underwriting process. Approval can take as little as 24 hours or it could take months.

What is the approval process for life insurance?

To get life insurance, first you get quotes. Then you apply for the policy.

Your application then goes through an underwriting process. The underwriting process is how the insurance company determines how risky you are to insure.

The underwriters use databases to obtain this information, you do not need to provide it. Underwriters will review information such as:

  • Your motor vehicle report
  • Your prescription history
  • Your Medical Information Bureau (MIB) report
  • A background check
  • A credit check

Once the underwriting process is done, the insurance company will know how high of a risk your life is to insure. This risk level determines what your life insurance rate will be.

Once you’re approved and receive your offer, you can accept the coverage or walk away. There is no obligation to buy.

This is the general process. However, the type of life insurance you apply for will impact how long the approval process takes.

» Learn more: The Life Insurance Application Process

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The Approval Process for Traditional Life Insurance

Traditional life insurance refers to policies that offer full coverage, like a term policy or a whole life policy.

You are not guaranteed coverage with traditional life insurance. You need to apply and go through the underwriting process.

With traditional life insurance, there’s full underwriting or accelerated underwriting.

With full underwriting, a medical exam is required. Medical records are also ordered.

If you schedule your exam right away, it helps speed up the process. The medical exam only takes 20-30 minutes and the examiner will come to your home or office, wherever it’s more convenient.

» Learn more: How to Prepare for Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

How quickly your doctors provide the insurance company your medical records will also impact how long the approval process takes. The more doctors you have visited within the last 5-10 years, the more medical records that will be ordered. This is usually the part of the process that takes the longest.

With accelerated underwriting, a medical exam isn’t needed. This process is used for applicants who are deemed low risk after the insurance company reviews their application. The approval process is often much faster than full underwriting.

The Approval Process for Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance is coverage that is guaranteed to any eligible applicant. Eligibility usually just requires that you’re between ages 50 and 80 and you want $50,000 or less in coverage.

There is no medical exam. There are no health questions. The approval process is very quick. However, the rates are expensive to balance the risk the insurance company takes on with these applicants.

The Approval Process for Simplified Issue Life Insurance

Simplified issue life insurance only requires that you answer a few health questions. As long as you can say “No” to the questions, you’re approved in just a few days. No medical exam required.

Like guaranteed issue, simplified issue products have limited coverage amounts and high rates.

Getting Approved for Life Insurance

You don’t need to be in perfect health to get life insurance coverage.

To get the best price, apply for traditional life insurance. Guaranteed issue and simplified issues policies will always be more expensive.

Life insurance is one of the most important purchases you will make for yourself and for your loved ones. Once your policy is put inforce you will have given your beneficiaries a means to replace your income and help with financial loss in case of your premature death.

It is truly one of the most selfless acts of love that you can do for your family. The peace of mind life insurance brings is worth the time it takes to get approved.

» Compare: Term life insurance quotes

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.