Yes, both green card and visa holders can qualify for a mortgage in the U.S.
Now that the spring home-buying season has begun, you should know what you need to qualify for a mortgage loan for your dream home. Requirements for non-U.S. citizens to qualify for a loan vary among lenders. However, all lenders require you to prove your residency status. Generally, lenders want to see credit history and continued residency and income for at least three years.
Lisa Tuan Wendl, a senior loan officer at General Mortgage Capital, recommends that new immigrants, including international students, establish credit in the U.S. as soon as possible by applying for credit cards. “Most lenders require three credit card items with a minimum of two years of history for mortgage loan applications,” she says.
The Alcorn Immigration Law team only practices U.S. immigration law, so most of the mortgage loan information in this blog comes from realtor.com and quickenloans.com. This blog is not intended as legal advice. Please contact a real estate agent or a mortgage broker for assistance.
If you have permanent residence status (a green card), you can apply for a mortgage loan under the same process as U.S. citizens. You will need:
- A valid Social Security card.
- A green card or a foreign passport with a valid stamp showing temporary permanent residency and that you have employment authorization.
- Enough history of using credit in the U.S. to generate a credit report and score. Borrowers need at least 12 months of history in at least two or three accounts to generate a credit score.
If your green card has expired or will expire in the next six months and you currently live in the U.S., we recommend contacting an immigration lawyer. The Alcorn Immigration Law team would be happy to help.
If you’re a conditional permanent resident, you will need a valid two-year green card listing the conditions and limits and a foreign passport with a valid stamp that showing permanent residence for one year.
If you’re still waiting for a decision from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your permanent residency, you need to show a copy of your receipt notice for a petition to remove conditions (Form I-797) or a petition by an entrepreneur to remove conditions (Form I-829).
Nonimmigrant Visa Holders
Temporary visa holders can qualify for a mortgage if they plan to live in the home they are buying.
A loan is considered conforming when it meets guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored institutions. Conforming loans offer standardized eligibility, pricing, and features and the interest rate may be lower than non-conforming loans.
For conforming loans below jumbo levels—generally $453,100, but could be higher in high-cost areas—you must have a valid visa or employment authorization document. For a jumbo loan, you also need three years of established residency and work history in the U.S.
Lenders accept these nonimmigrant visas as proof of legal residency when applying for a mortgage:
If you have a nonimmigrant visa, your ability to qualify for a home loan will depend on whether you are authorized to live and work in the U.S. for at least the next three years and your credit report and score.
Big Down Payment
One expert says immigrants can get around the residency and work authorization requirement if they make a significant down payment.
“Borrowers can get by with foreign employ, income, and credit—even lack of residency or qualifying work status,” says Richard Wang, a partner at Veridian Mortgage. “But if you don’t have a 20% to 40% down payment, it will be next to impossible.”