How to buy a house in the United States using your H-1B visa

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Is owning a home possible with an H-1B visa? Yes! It is perfectly legal for any H-1B visa holder to purchase a home in the United States. Many foreign visa holders buy homes in metropolitan hubs around the country for day-to-day convenience and long-term investment potential. 

However, the uncertainty of your position as someone with a work visa might cause some anxiety. Look at how to weigh the pros and cons of investing in real estate with an H-1B visa.

Key Takeaways

  • H-1B visa holders can buy homes in the United States generally without restrictions
  • The financial requirements to buy a home as a H-1b visa holder typically mirror the requirements for United States citizens
  • A home can be an investment even if you don’t plan to live in the United States permanently
  • Buying a home with an H-1B visa comes with a variety of financial perks

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Should you buy a home on an H-1B visa?

H-1B visa holders can look at homes as investments as permanent residents do. Like all investments, real estate comes with risks and rewards. The main benefit of owning a home as a H-1B visa holder is generally the same as being a native-born citizen, and that’s your ability to gain equity with a home purchase instead of paying rent to someone else. In some parts of the country, rent costs exceed monthly mortgage costs, depending on the home you purchase. 

Buying gives H-1B visa holders something to show for all of their hard work. However, searching for homes in your price range that qualify for manageable home loans is still essential.

Why buy a home on a visa? 

Obtaining a mortgage and buying a home can create a sense of stability in your life during a time when you may be adjusting to new things. And if things change again, you can always sell and move. Just because you buy a home in a specific city, it doesn’t mean you have to live there for life. It does mean you get all the financial and emotional perks of homeownership in the US.

But like anything else, homeownership also comes with its fair share of work and expenses.

While you may be thinking of waiting to purchase a home in the United States until you’re a permanent resident, the reality is that if you can afford a down payment and the monthly costs, you’re in just as good a position to buy as anyone else.

Mortgage payments offer more stability than rent payments

Monthly rental payments can rise every time you renew your lease in the United States. Furthermore, some  state laws allow landlords to increase rents at their discretion if they provide enough notice.  

By contrast, monthly mortgage payments are locked in once you close for a fixed-rate mortgage. Even if you choose an adjustable-rate mortgage loan, the amount your lender can increase your payments is limited by the type of ARM loan you have and the lender’s requirements that make your rates a little more predictable than rent. 

While it’s true that your property taxes can increase as home values rise, the amount of equity you build as your home increases in value makes up for the added expense of higher taxes. In addition to potentially providing you with a profit if you sell your home, an equity increase also allows you to obtain home equity loans and provides refinancing options. 

Ownership increases the quality of life for H-1B visa holders

While there are many excellent rental properties around the country, the fact is that being a renter is restrictive. Renters must follow all the rules imposed by their landlords. They cannot make significant changes or alterations in a rental unit without prior landlord approval and potentially risking everything from a forfeited security deposit to legal action.

Renters also can’t control how their neighbors behave. In many cases, loud or disruptive neighbors in a rental complex can make it hard to enjoy your home. 

Constant sounds and disruptions you can’t control can cause sleepless nights, decreasing work productivity. Finally, many rental units don’t allow pets and the ones that do may restrict how many and the type of pets you’re allowed. If pets are allowed, there is usually a separate pet deposit and a higher rent.

Visa holders buy new home in the United States
People with work visas in the US can buy a home in the country just like a use citizen

What kinds of home loans can green card and work visa holders get?

Banks and mortgage lenders offer robust financing options for H-1B visa holders with similar terms to what United States citizens can get. The requirements for getting approved for a loan with an H-1B visa generally look like this:

  • Must have a Social Security number
  • Must have a valid work visa
  • Must have a steady two-year employment history in the United States
  • Must have two years of credit history in the United States
  • Must have a good credit score (varies by lender and type of loan program)
  • Must have proof of stable income

How to buy a home with a visa

Be prepared that buying a home in the United States if you’re not a citizen can require considerably more paperwork and verification than a home purchase for a US citizen. However, visa holders can purchase homes in the United States generally without any more restrictions than residents. 

In fact, H-1B visa holders can qualify for almost all types of mortgage loans, from conventional to jumbo mortgages to FHA and USDA mortgage loans. Ultimately, it always helps to choose a lender with experience with H-1B visa mortgages.

Down payments for visa holders

Do you have to put down 20% for a down payment to buy a home in the United States? Not necessarily. The down payment needed to obtain a home loan as a H-1B visa holder is not based on citizenship status but will be determined by:

  • The price of the home
  • The type of home loan you select
  • Your credit score and credit history
  • Your income

FHA loans for visa holders

The  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) backs FHA loans, and you can qualify for down payments as low as 3.5% depending on your credit score. Submission of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with proof that you’re eligible to work in the United States is required to apply for an FHA loan.

Conventional mortgage loans for visa holders

Conventional loans are backed by the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) or  the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).  Depending on your lender and the conventional loan program you choose, you will have minimum credit score and down payment requirements for these loans. 

Everything you need to know to buy a home on a work visa

Buying a home while working in the United States on a H-1B visa can be an excellent strategy for building wealth. While buying a home on a H-1B visa might require some extra paperwork and verification, foreign borrowers must generally satisfy similar requirements, terms, and conditions that apply to United States citizens. Nothing stops you from owning a home. Prepare to apply for your mortgage by checking your credit score, reducing your debts, gathering all your financial paperwork, and researching lenders for pre-approval!

About the author: As the son of a construction contractor and a former property manager, Scott Dylan Westerlund knows how to keep the lights on and the water running. In addition to Flyhomes, he has written for Angi, HomeLight and HomeAdvisor. His hobbies include fixing things around the house, baking things up in the kitchen, and spending quality time with his wife and daughter just about everywhere.

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