We receive requests from people interested in buying a home in the United States who are not US citizens. The status of a person in the United States makes different loan programs available depending on the length of stay that the person is allowed to stay in the country.
We will try to describe these options from least difficult to most difficult.
PERMANENT RESIDENT ALIENS
These people are able to apply for a loan in exactly the same conditions as any US citizen. Loans to these customers are purchased automatically by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The person must show us the “green card” issued to him by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Sometimes the bank will ask for an authorization to contact the Social Security Administration ( SSA) to confirm the social security administration. These borrowers have access to all loan programs, first mortgages, second mortgages, home equity lines of credit and mortgage insurance. Borrowers must have a valid social security number.
H1B VISA HOLDERS
H1B visas are issued to international workers who come to the United States for a definite period of time. Usually between three and six years. Normally banks treat these applicants as permanent residents, in some cases they will ask to see a petition to extend the residency permit. Interest rates and conditions will be similar to those offered to US citizens. The SSA will have provided these applicants with social security numbers.
Known as the Employment Authorization Document ( EAD) the work permit is given to students, fiancées of US citizens, foreign diplomats, special workers. Fewer banks are willing to provide a mortgage to these persons due to the short term they are allowed to stay in the country. Other banks state that they are only concerned that the person is in the US legally and will provide a mortgage under normal conditions.
It has become very difficult to obtain mortgage financing for foreign nationals in the last year. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have removed those options from their offerings. Most national mortgage lenders that provided foreign national mortgages no longer offer them. Several banks in Florida still offer loans to foreign nationals who are buying property in that state. The borrower usually has to put 25% as down payment and provide proof of employment and credit in his native country. They must provide a tourist visa that allows them to visit the US and the home they buy in the US will be considered a second (vacation) home for them. It is unfortunate that this kind of financing is so restricted at this moment. Investments by foreigners at this time of a glut in the housing market and a weak dollar would open up many options to sell homes.
For many years the Internal Revenue Service ( IRS) has provided non US citizens with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN). These numbers are used by the IRS to track (and be able to tax) income from dividends, savings, commissions and other income generated in the US. The ITIN does not allow the person to live or even be in the United States, it is only a medium for tax control. Some companies however are using the ITIN to identify their customers in credit transactions and thus reporting them to the credit bureaus. A limited number of national banks offer mortgages to ITIN holders. Some banks will use the ITIN number when assigning customers checking, savings accounts and CDs. Some local and regional banks offer mortgage loans to customers with ITINs. These customers provide a history of employment, sometimes alternative credit documents ( utilities, insurance bills, retail accounts, cellular phone bills) and bank statements to qualify for a mortgage loan. At one time loans for these customers only required 3% down payment, now most programs require between 10% and 15% down payment.