How can I build credit without a social security number?

By John Atkins

Undocumented immigrants face an uphill struggle in regards to civil rights and benefits. In the past few years, however, many states and companies have taken a more supportive view. 

Some states now allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, for example, while certain banks will let them open bank accounts. 

Believe it or not, it’s also possible for undocumented immigrants to build credit, provided they know where to look.

Legality Issues

Many undocumented immigrants fail to pursue credit for one simple reason: they assume it’s illegal. 

In reality, though offering credit to undocumented immigrants may inspire controversy, it falls within the boundaries of the law. 

Federal law does not require that lenders verify either immigration status or citizenship, nor must borrowers have a Social Security number.

Lenders will, however, ask for proof of identification and employment. Undocumented immigrants can provide passports, other government-issued documents, or an individual taxpayer identification number.

Where to Get Credit

A surprising number of financial entities will provide credit — and even mortgages — to undocumented immigrants. Banks and credit unions in cities with large populations of immigrants will more likely host these programs, as the immigrants provide a valuable revenue stream. 

Lending institutions that service undocumented immigrants often will not publicize this fact, however, so you may need to directly inquire or seek out personal recommendations. 

As the undocumented immigrant population continues to grow, expect even more banks to compete for a share of the business.

The Benefits of Credit

Some people believe that the offering of credit to undocumented immigrants encourages illegal entry into the United States. 

On the other hand, access to credit provides many tangible benefits, and not only to the immigrants themselves: 

  • Banks receive a larger portion of the market share through immigrant business while the large purchases that credit enables help support the overall economy. 

Undocumented immigrants can also use their credit and purchase records to help establish residency or satisfy amnesty requirements.

Credit provides financial freedom and flexibility, and provides security in the event of unexpected emergencies. Thanks to the practical benefits of working with immigrants, expect more and more banks to offer this valuable and necessary service.

About the Author

John Atkins was the community manager for Self.

Written on July 22, 2015

Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings.
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Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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