What to know about buying a home in the US if you’re not a citizen

passport book on floor

Buying a home in the US when you’re not a citizen takes a little more planning and preparation but it’s not impossible. In fact, the process is not all that different than if you were a citizen. It’s easiest for non-US citizens to buy their home by making a cash offer. But most immigrants and visa-holders take out mortgages just like US citizens do.

The difference is that you will need a higher credit score and a few more documents before a bank approves your loan. That’s good news for foreigners who aspire to their own American Dream as homeowners. If you take a few more steps and put in a little extra work before you make an offer on a home, there’s no reason you can’t become a homeowner in the US.

When you’re ready, talk to a Flyhomes agent to see how we can help you at every step of the way.

Getting a mortgage as a non-US citizen

Just like with most US citizens, the most common way for a non-US citizen to buy a home is by taking out a mortgage loan. Your bank will need to verify your income and credit history to determine your financial risk and stability. It may be hard for them to find your records if you are not a permanent resident, so you might have to shop around with different lenders to find one willing and able to lend you money. As long as you can provide the necessary  records, you’re eligible for most loan programs.

The US government’s FHA loan is one of the more popular loan programs for borrowers who don’t have money for a large down payment. Non-US citizens are eligible for this program but you’ll need to prove that the home you’re buying will be your permanent home—not a vacation or investment property.

Learn about the different types of mortgages here.

It’s a little trickier if you are not a resident on a visa or green card. Finding a credit report will be more difficult so some banks wouldn’t be able to determine your financial eligibility. For foreign nationals who are buying a home from outside the US, the best option is to pay for your home in cash. You can take out a Foreign National Loan as well, but those have high interest rates and high down payments. Plus you’ll need to have an Individual Tax Identification Number in the US.

a real estate agent giving a house tour to a client
Non-US citizens can be approved for mortgages just the same as citizens by providing records of their finances and credit history

Your residency status

The type of home loan, and how much you’ll pay for it, depends on your residency status. If you live and work in the US, you’ll have tax documents to show your lender that you are financially reliable. But if you are a foreign national living abroad, your records are harder to verify.

The longer you’ve been in the US, the more information your lender will have to be able to make a decision. So green card holders and people who are here on a work visa have the easiest path toward an affordable mortgage. If you are a foreign-national whose primary work and residence is outside the US, your credit report is all your lender has to go on so they may charge you higher rates or require a larger down payment.

Green card holders

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will back a green card holder’s conventional loan the same as they would for a US citizen. These big government-backed institutions buy mortgages from smaller banks to relieve some financial risk. They have no special requirements for green card holders.

Work visa holders

If you have a work visa, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will also buy your mortgage from your lender, but you may have to prove that your employer will renew your contract. It’s easiest if you can show your lender that you’ll be working in the US for at least three years. Work visa holders are also eligible for FHA loans, which allow you to buy a mortgage with as little as 3% down.

Foreign nationals

People who live and work outside the US will have the hardest time qualifying for a conventional mortgage. Your lender won’t have enough information to verify your income besides your basic credit history. You may be able to find a private lender for a non-conventional loan, but you’ll have to pay a larger down payment and have a high credit score.

Buying a home with cash

Even though visa or green card holders are just as eligible for a mortgage loan as US citizens, it’s still a little trickier. Lenders will have to work a little longer to verify income and check documentation. Plus, you may end up with a slightly higher interest rate or pay a higher down payment. So, the fastest and easiest option for non-US citizens to buy a home in the States is to buy with cash.

If you buy in cash, you skip over taking out a loan from a bank or lender and pay the owners of the home directly. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to come to the negotiating table with a pile of actual money. Instead, cash offers are often a series of wire transfers through an escrow account that goes directly to the seller.

If you don’t have the full amount of the home in cash, there is a growing number of American companies who can help you finance a cash offer. Flyhomes is one of them.

Find out how we can help you make a cash offer for your home.

The easiest way for non-US citizens to buy a home in the US is with a cash offer

Documents for non-citizen homebuyers

Your mortgage lender needs document that help them determine your credit history, employment history, and proof of income. For a US citizen, this is pretty simple because of tax records and access to American credit reporting agencies. If you’re not a US citizen, it can be expensive and time consuming for these credit bureaus to find your credit history. And it mostly works for North American countries and some Western European countries.

If you have a relationship or an account with an international bank, though, this should be less difficult.

If you don’t have an international bank account, though, here are the records, criteria, and documents you’ll need to qualify for a loan:

  • A credit score of 720 or higher
  • A valid Individual Tax Identification Number or Social Security Number
  • American pay stubs and an American bank account where your salary goes
  • Proof that you’ve been a US citizen for at least 2 years
  • Proof that you have worked in the US for 2, consecutive years

Your rights as a Non-citizen homebuyer

The 14th Amendment to the US constitution states that you should not be subjected to any kind of prejudice, bias, or discrimination when it comes to the law.

On top of that, the US Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to make sure that people wouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of race or religion if they wanted to purchase, rent, or finance a house.

If you feel you are having a hard time securing a home loan due to your nationality, race, or religion you can file a complaint with a number of agencies who are dedicated to enforcing these anti-discriminatory laws.

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