How to get a loan as an immigrant

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  • Millions of immigrants and informal workers aren’t able to borrow from mainstream lenders.
  • Traditional lenders may deny applicants without a Social Security number or credit history. 
  • Some lenders address the financial gap by offering small and large-sized loans to immigrants.

Without a Social Security number and a credit history, immigrants often find it difficult to access traditional financial products. Lenders may avoid lending to immigrants because they’re uncertain about an applicant’s employment status and ability to make payments.

Nearly one in five consumers lack any credit history with major ratings agencies, says Maddy Woodle, Communications Manager with San Francisco-based Mission Asset Fund, a nonprofit financial and advocacy organization for low income communities. This makes it nearly impossible to access affordable bank loans, she says. 

While this may seem bleak for immigrants looking to borrow money, there are options. Some lenders and products are available to help non-U.S. citizens take out a loan for a car, home, business or college. Here’s where to look as you begin the search for a loan. 

What are some personal loan lenders that accept non-US citizen immigrants?

In addition to the requirements below, eligibility varies by lender and approval depends on a number of factors, including your financial history, credit score, expenses, and monthly income.

  • SoFi
    SoFi offers student loans, mortgages, and personal loans. SoFi personal loans range from $5,000 to $100,000. To qualify, you must be at least 18 (or older depending on the state you’re in), be a US citizen, eligible permanent resident, or non-permanent resident with valid documentation showing your immigration status. You need to be employed, have income from other sources, or have an offer for employment that begins within 90 days.
  • Upgrade
    Upgrade’s personal loans range from $1,000 to $50,000 and borrowers can use them for many purposes. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old (or 19 in some states) and be a US citizen, permanent resident, or be living in the US with a valid visa. You’ll also need a bank account and a valid email address. 
  • Mission Asset Fund
    Mission Asset Fund offers interest-free credit-builder loans. Its immigration loans help people cover citizenship expenses. You need to be at least 18 years old and ready to submit your application to the US Customs and Immigration Service for citizenship, DACA, Green Card, Petition for an Immigrant Relative, Temporary Protected Status, or U Visa. You also need a checking account, government-issued photo ID, Social Security number or individual tax identification number, income, and use no more than half of your monthly income for bills and debt.

    MAF also offers loans of up to $2,400 through its Lending Circles. MAF reports repayment to the major credit bureaus to help clients establish credit.

  • One Percent for America
    One Percent for America offers 1% interest loans to immigrants seeking temporary protected status, DACA, a green card or citizenship. You’ll need an email address, mobile phone number, bank account, social security number or ITIN number, and to know the exact amount of your application fees. 

What information will I need to prepare to apply for a loan?

Getting organized ahead of time will help smooth out the process. Some of what you’ll need may include, but is not limited to:

  • Green card/visa/proof of residency
  • Employment authorization form
  • Know your credit score (many places require a minimum of 600)
  • ID
  • Proof of address
  • Income verification or offer of employment
  • Personal information
  • Education history / school records
  • A list of your monthly expenses
  • Proof you’ve paid rent, utility, or other bill payments on time
  • Tax return   

If I’m not a US citizen, can I receive student loans?

While DACA recipients are excluded from federal student aid, many non-US citizens are eligible. The Department of Education fully details qualification requirements in its comprehensive FAQ.

Regardless of whether you qualify for federal student aid, non-citizens may be eligible for private loans, state financial aid, and aid directly from the college or university they plan to attend. Check with your school’s financial aid office about what resources, including grants and scholarships, are available to you.  

Still, many lenders avoid offering student loans for foreign born students unless they have a Social Security number and a status which allows them to pursue lawful employment, says Renata Castro, an immigration attorney and founder of Castro Legal Group. As a result, she recommends foreign students also look into using foreign-issued lines of credit. 

What are alternatives to loans?

If you can’t get a loan, ask friends, family, or local organizations for help. You might also consider getting a credit card or a salary advance, but be careful to guard your money. Make sure you understand the interest rates and that you can repay what you borrow. If you can’t borrow what you need, you may be able to earn it through short-term work in the gig economy. 

Regardless of your immigration status, if you need money, there are options available.

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