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How to Get a Mortgage If You’re Not a U.S. Citizen

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If you are not a U.S. citizen, trying to get home loan financing can be a long and difficult road — though it’s not necessarily impossible. If you have a Social Security number or permanent work stability, here are some basics to help get you on the road to a mortgage.

Important Terms to Know

For the purposes of getting a mortgage, U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are practically the same, with one subtle difference: The permanent resident alien needs a green card validating their citizenship authenticity in the U.S. It’s important to note that many lenders won’t make loans to borrowers who don’t have Social Security numbers or permanent work stability — as shown by a three-year continuance. Here’s a breakdown of the main citizenship categories:

  • U.S. Citizen: A legal member of the U.S., born here or naturalized, with a valid Social Security number.
  • Permanent Resident Alien: Person who possesses a green card, making them a legal resident in the U.S., who also possesses a valid Social Security number.
  • Non-Permanent Resident Alien: A person who does not possess a green card, and has a valid Social Security number. Typically, a host country like the United States will offer employment to a non-U.S. citizen from their home country during their stay here in the United States. This person is considered to be non-permanent resident alien, meaning that their residency is not permanent due to a temporary employment situation in most cases.

The Borrowing Restrictions You’ll Deal With

Borrowers ideally want to show the continuance of income for at least three years and need to be filing U.S. income tax returns.

For traditional mortgage loan financing — the conforming variety, which are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — restrictions are more stringent for both permanent resident aliens and non-permanent resident aliens.

Permanent resident aliens must have at least one of the following:

  • Permanent Resident Card Form l-551 with an original term of 10 years, doesn’t matter if the term is set to expire.
  • Permanent Resident Card Form l-551, valid for two years with supporting receipts from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • USCIS receipt for a petition to remove condition residence form l-751, filed by the spouse who is a citizen.

Non-permanent resident aliens must have a valid work visa or other supporting documentation of legal residency. Such documentation includes any of the following designation visas: E1, E2, H1B, H2 A, H2B, H3, L1, G series and 0-1. You must have a valid Social Security number. Foreign nationals, those with diplomatic immunity or any borrower without a Social Security card will be very hard-pressed to find financing.

For government financing, insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), guidelines are a little more lenient. You need not be a U.S. citizen in order to get a government loan. You will need a valid Social Security card, legitimate employer paystub, W-2 form or any other government-issued card that includes the full SSN. As long as you plan to occupy the property as your primary residence, even if you are a non-permanent resident alien, you are still eligible for financing.

If you’re looking to get a mortgage, and are a permanent resident alien, the FHA loan is more flexible if your temporary residency in the U.S. is not set to expire in the next 12 months. If it is set to expire in the next 12 months, supporting documentation will need to be provided to show this extension is approved, or more emphasis will be placed on a stronger three-year continuance of residency from the USCIS.

The Bottom Line

Can you get a conventional loan if you’re not a U.S. citizen? You would likely fall into the non-permanent resident alien category and the answer is yes, so long as you can support a three-year continuance of income, have a valid Social Security number, and you have an eligible work visa. If your work visa is not E1, E2, H1B, H2 A, H2B, H3, L1, G series and 0-1, this doesn’t necessarily preclude you from being able to get a mortgage, but more emphasis will be placed on continuance of income and residence history for the next 36 months. You will also need to be filing U.S. income tax returns.

Can you get a mortgage loan if you’re a permanent resident alien? Definitely. Provide a copy of your permanent resident alien card/green card, and two years copies of your U.S. income tax returns, and in most cases you should be good to go.

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  • Timothy L

    USCIS receipt for a petition to remove condition residence form l-175, filed by the spouse who is a citizen.
    SHOULD BE I-751 FORM ….the re is NOTHING LIKE A….” I-175″ form in USCIS !!!!!

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Many thanks for bringing this to our attention. You are correct — this was an error on our part and this document is the 1-751. It has been corrected. Again, thank you.

  • Mehrdad

    I have green card with no credit but I can pay half an price of house can I get loan?

  • ScottSheldonLoans

    Only her income would be counted. Maybe a co-signor if her income alone isn’t enough to make it work?

  • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

    Hi JD —

    Great question. If you have the ability to work in the U.S. but are not employed right now, the bigger problem from the lender’s perspective will be that you have no or limited income available for the mortgage approval process. Income is a major part of what lenders consider before they can approve anyone for a mortgage because they need to make sure you can repay the loan. Most lenders require 2 years of pay stubs and proof of any other income to begin the approval process and then they will also consider any outstanding debts as well.

    Let us know if you have any follow-up questions!

    • ScottSheldonLoans

      Additionally, future income continuance is what lenders look for primarily with these types of citizenship situations. 3 years is the threshold…

  • C.V

    Can someone with a TPS can buy a house?

    • ScottSheldonLoans

      Same guidelines apply here as well from the article.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Have you talked with a lender to find out?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Might I suggest you talk with a lender who can evaluate your situation and help you put together a game plan? Your immigration status is just one factor in the process, and they can look at the whole picture.

  • monica

    my father has had an ITIN number for 20+ years, and we would like to apply for a mortgage. He asked the bank, and the first thing they said he needed was a social security. He doesn’t have one, so where can we get help??????

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Is he able to get a Social Security number? It’s not clear from your question what his residency status is (and his bank may not be able to help – he may have to extend his search).

  • Florangel

    We are currently living in Canada as Permanent Residents and my husband has been transfer to USA with an L1 visa. We have had a saving account in USA for more than 12 years but we don’t have any credit history. Is it possible for us to apply to a mortgage?

    • ScottSheldonLoans

      You guys would need to obtain credit, while US income tax returns and build a credit history as well to be able to qualify for something in the United States.

      • Patricia

        Hello I’ve been looking around trying to do some research on getting a mortgage with my work permit and a social security with already establishing credit. But I’m considered a non resident, non citizen just temporary resident due to the fact that I was able to get a permit with the DACA program, I recently renewed my permit and got it for 3 yrs. So far I’ve gotten a loan for a car and have been establishing credit thru my credit cards and hopefully this car loan. Now I want to go into a house (mortgage) I’m really interested in getting one if possible. Can you lead me the right way? Do you think I have a possibility? Is there a lender that would help me? I need answers please. Would really appreciate it, thanks in advance.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          I checked with Scott Sheldon, the author of this article. He says: I think the best approach for her would be to apply and probably get an FHA loan. She will have to provide documentation of continuance of the income for the next 36 months. I think that is the best case approach given what she is are sharing.

  • Milorad Plavsic

    Hi, I have H1B visa and I also have a SSN but I don’t have green card yet (I expect it in the next 14 months). Also, I have very stable income for almost three years. On the other hand, I don’t have credit history because I never took a loan and I am normally a cash buyer. Now, I need to buy a house and I need a mortgage loan. If I understood the article correctly, I am a Non-Permanent Resident Alien and even though it might be a bit of a stress, I am theoretically eligible to take a loan. However, when I visited one of Bank of America branches, I was told in a very polity way “no green card-no mortgage”. I am also told that that is a federal policy and that I could try with my employer’s credit union. What is your opinion? Many thanks.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Have you talked with your employer’s credit union? It would be a good idea to check with them and if they can’t help you feel free to let us know.

      • Milorad Plavsic

        No, I haven’t talked to them yet. I’ll do that soon and let you know. Thank you very much.

  • Nishant

    Hi we’re from India and would be coming to US on an L1. How soon can we get a mortgage ? If we have some funds in India kept in a fixed deposit can we show that and will it help in improving our credibility ?

  • Matthew Long

    We moved here from the UK in July. Credit will be more or less impossible to get at first as they do not count anything from the UK as being valid. The scoring system is completely different, so you will be starting from scratch.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler
      • Matthew Long

        Good article. We have followed all of the points and about 6 months in our secured credit cards with Wells Fargo were converted to normal credit cards. This is after Wells Fargo wrote to say they would never convert them without a green card!. One of the hardest parts is adjusting to the lower credit limits in the US without running everything through the UK. I have two cards here totalling $1500 dollars (not even enough to securely buy a flight home). In the UK we have two providing about $50000 credit. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          Good to know! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • ScottSheldonLoans

    You need to be filing US income tax returns in order to qualify for a mortgage here in the US.

  • ScottSheldonLoans

    Conventional loans are much more stringent on providing the continuance of the income where FHA is much more lenient. If tou can show on paper you have 36 months of guaranteed income continuance, then yes you might have a shot for conventional otherwise FHA is a better option.

  • ScottSheldonLoans

    You need a letter of continuance of income for next three from USCIS. Call them. Beyond that, if you have a contact there, all the better. You may want to consider an FHA Loan which is less strict on this guideline.

    • vipulbhandari82

      Did talk to my lender again. They seem to accept a letter from Employer expressing the intent to renew visa.

      Thanks to you, I also took an appointment from USCIS to obtain a letter of continuance of income.

      • ScottSheldonLoans

        Good! I am happy for you. This is best course of action to take with best possible outcome.

  • Aurora

    Hi, I have DACA. Could you share who you were approved with?

  • Emma

    Hi there,

    Wondering if you can help..I would like to buy an investment property in the U.S and get a mortgage loan. We lived in the U.S for 3 years but have now moved back home to Australia. We still have a bank account there in the U.S with money in it and managed to build an excellent credit score during our stay there. We also have social security numbers and completed U.S tax returns while on assignment there. We never applied for green cards and were there on working visas so we were never permanent residents,we had non -immigrant visas. What are our chances of getting a mortgage ? Thank you

    • ScottSheldonCaliforniaLender

      Honestly, I think you have a very difficult time purchasing an investment property in this capacity. Generally, lenders are much more forgiving in terms of qualifying for a primary home then for investment property. If you move back to the states, and purchased the home is a primary residence and physically move there I think your chances are far better.

  • Delphine

    Hello, what is the case if i’m a non permanent resident (with a J1 visa) and I want to buy a house with my boyfriend who is American. Will they consider only his situation for a loan (based on his salary and not our combined salary since my situation is not stable – one year at a time contract with the university) ? which means the loan will not be as important as if it was based on both of our salaries… Thank you for your help and recommendation.

    • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

      Hi Delphine —

      If you are co-borrowers (i.e. applying together, both on the financing as well as the deed, etc.), then both of your salaries and debts will be included in qualifying. But if your boyfriend applies as the sole borrower and owner, your information will not be considered for mortgage qualifying purposes. If you have any questions about your visa and whether it will disqualify you from applying for a mortgage, you can always pop into a bank or credit union near you and discuss your options.

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