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Can I Get a Conventional Loan as a Non-U.S. Citizen?

With permanent or non-permanent lawful U.S. residency, you can be considered for a home loan.

You don’t need to be a U.S. citizen to purchase property in the United States, but obtaining a mortgage can get complicated as a foreign national. Thankfully, it's possible to get a conventional loan as a non-U.S. citizen, so long as you meet a couple of extra qualifications.

Here’s how to get a conventional loan without citizenship, including the paperwork you’ll need and some scenarios you may encounter along the way.

Residency Status

The most important determining factor in whether a non-U.S. citizen is eligible for a conventional loan is their residency status. Fannie Mae, a government entity that sets the guidelines for conventional loans, allows for lending to both lawful permanent residents and non-permanent residents with a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or other acceptable status document.

Permanent Residents

Lawful permanent residents are non-citizens with a Permanent Resident Card (commonly referred to as a Green Card) or I-551 stamp. Borrowers in this category will likely find the mortgage process simpler as their residency isn't tied to their job, and they often have more extended credit and employment histories in the country.

Non-Permanent Residents

Non-permanent residents are people who are lawfully able to reside in the United States but have not applied for or been granted permanent residency. Most frequently, these are individuals in the country for work opportunities and sponsored by an employer. But some are here as students or for other reasons.

Tax Identification Numbers

In addition to providing proof legal residency, you’ll also need to submit a tax identification number. For most permanent residents and non-permanent residents authorized to work in the US, this will be your Social Security number (SSN). You can submit your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you don't have an SSN.

What Documents Are Needed as a Non-U.S. Citizen?

For non-citizens, the main additional requirement is proving your residency status. Some common documents used to verify status include:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

  • Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)

  • I-551 Stamp

  • Temporary Worker Visa (including H-series, G-series, and NAFTA, among others)

Note: Most conventional lenders will require proof that non-permanent residents can remain legally in the United States for at least three years. If you have fewer than three years remaining on your visa, they'll want to see evidence that it will likely be renewed.

If you have an SSN or ITIN, the rest of the lending process is similar to a conventional loan for a citizen.

As with all borrowers, lenders want to assess your credit and employment history, income level, and debt obligations. Some standard documents they'll ask for include:

  • Two years of signed tax returns

  • Recent pay stubs

  • Bank statements

  • Investment account statements

  • Records of other assets

Documenting Foreign Income

A common problem for non-U.S. citizens is that they don't have two years of U.S. income. Luckily, conventional lending guidelines allow you to qualify using foreign income – income paid in foreign currency from a foreign employer or government.

You will, however, still need two years of signed federal tax returns documenting the income. All documentation regarding foreign income and employment needs to be in English. If your employer does not offer income documentation in English, the lender will find a third-party provider to translate it. All income amounts must also be converted to their United States Dollar (USD) equivalent for calculations.

Documenting Foreign Assets

Many non-citizens have assets in foreign institutions and currencies other than USD. Like foreign income, lenders will request documentation of foreign holdings in English or need to have them translated by a third-party provider.

Are you planning to use foreign assets for your down payment and closing costs? If so, funds will need to be exchanged into USD and transferred to a federal or state-regulated financial institution before closing.

Lenders typically request two months of bank statements during the qualification process and must evaluate any large deposits.

Nontraditional Credit History

Often, non-citizens do not have a U.S. credit score. But even if you don't have U.S. credit history from any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), you may still qualify through a nontraditional credit history.

In certain cases, non-U.S. citizens with limited credit usage may have a low score due to insufficient credit history. While "thin file" credit reports prevent you from using nontraditional credit history for most conventional loans, there is an exception for 3% down HomeReady loans, which may still allow you to qualify.

Most of the time, nontraditional credit history can only be used when purchasing a single-unit primary residence, and the loan amount can't exceed conforming loan limits ($766,550 for most areas in 2024). The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is also capped at 36% for nontraditional credit, whereas a standard credit history allows DTI as high as 45% with some lenders.

There are certain exceptions for these limitations. Talk with a lending professional to determine your specific situation.

Qualifying Using Nontraditional Credit

To qualify using a nontraditional credit history, you’ll need to provide four credit references (only three when using a HomeReady loan) of at least twelve months. Some common types of nontraditional credit references include:

  • Rental housing payments

  • Utilities (if paid separately from your housing payment)

  • Insurance premiums (including auto, life, health, and renters)

  • Cell phone payments

  • Vehicle leases

  • Tuition payments

If a twelve-month rental payment history is one of your references for nontraditional credit, you may not be required to maintain a financial reserve. If not, you’ll be required to show proof of funds sufficient to cover 12 months of mortgage expenses.

If you rely on a nontraditional credit history to qualify, you must complete a homeownership education course as part of the lending process, which is often free and takes less than a day to complete online. Guidelines for DACA Recipients

Even though non-citizens with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) protection do not have lawful status, they can still qualify for a conventional loan. The same standards apply to DACA recipients that apply to all other non-permanent residents.

This usually means presenting your EAD(c)(33) and Social Security number in addition to the typically requested income and asset documents.

Conventional Loan FAQs for Non-U.S. Citizens

Do I need a Green Card to get a conventional loan?

No, you do not need to be a permanent resident or have a Green Card to get a conventional loan. Lending guidelines allow non-permanent residents to qualify with an approved residency status and tax identification number.

Can I get a conventional loan without a U.S. credit score?

Yes, even if you don't have a U.S. credit score, you may still be able to get a conventional loan. Lenders will ask for documentation of a nontraditional credit history, requiring at least three nontraditional references, such as rental payments, utilities, and vehicle leases. These accounts must have a minimum of a 12-month history to be accepted.

Can I qualify for a conventional loan without current immigration status?

Unfortunately, Fannie Mae guidelines do not allow lenders to originate conventional loans for borrowers without a current immigration status.

Do I need U.S. work history to qualify for a conventional loan?

No! While you must provide two years of documented earnings, it does not need to come from a U.S. employer. However, you must still provide two years of signed U.S. taxed returns reporting the income.

Can a self-employed non-U.S. citizen get a conventional loan?

Yes, non-U.S. citizens who are self-employed can qualify for a conventional loan. They'll still need to provide a tax identification number and proof of residency, but after that, the process is the same as with any other self-employed borrower.

Next Steps for Getting a Conventional Loan

You can still get a conventional loan even if you're not a U.S. citizen. In fact, the process isn't much different than for other borrowers as long as you have a valid residency status and a tax identification number. If you meet these requirements, the next step is to contact a lending professional who can guide you toward the mortgage options best suited for your individual situation.

About The Author:

Tim Lucas spent 11 years in the mortgage industry and now leverages that real-world knowledge to give consumers reliable, actionable advice. Tim has been featured in national publications such as Time, U.S. News, MSN, The Mortgage Reports, and more.

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