Is it impossible to get a mortgage as an undocumented immigrant?

By John Atkins

If asked whether an illegal immigrant can own a home in the United States, most people would quickly answer in the negative. 

It seems nonsensical that someone without the legal right of presence could own physical property, much less a house. 

In reality, anyone — even a foreigner or illegal immigrant — can buy and own United States property. The universal language of cash and a limited number of mortgage programs make it possible.

The Indispensable ITIN

In order to qualify for a mortgage as an illegal immigrant, a borrower needs one indispensable piece of information: a taxpayer identification number.

The IRS assigns these numbers to all taxpayers, regardless of residential status. If you have ever paid taxes in the United States through employment or property ownership, you have an ITIN.

These numbers have no bearing on residential status, and the IRS does not share taxpayer information with immigration authorities. In other words, an illegal immigrant with a job can safely pay his or her taxes — and thus receive the vital ITIN — without fear of deportation.

Other Necessary Info

The ITIN essentially takes the place of a Social Security number for undocumented immigrants in the mortgage process. The applicant still needs to provide an assortment of other information, however.

Lenders do not award mortgages lightly; an applicant will need to submit to a credit check, provide ample proof of income and fill out numerous forms. Most banks will gladly help with this process, provided the applicant appears like a good mortgage candidate.

The most important part of a mortgage application is the down payment. For most mortgages, the average down payment represents 20 percent of the total purchase price of the home. For illegal immigrants, lenders may want a higher down payment. Why? Banks assume an additional risk through the possibility of deportation, even in situations where it seems unlikely.

Lender Options

Unless you have tens of thousands of dollars in cash, you will need a mortgage to purchase a home. Though the availability of mortgages for undocumented immigrants is still limited, more and more options become available every year. The Venta Financial Group offers mortgages to illegal immigrants in seven states, including Texas, California, Nevada and Florida. Citibank offers mortgages to immigrants in any state through a partnership with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation.

While these are two notable examples, many other lenders — especially those in areas with large immigrant populations — provide mortgages to undocumented immigrants. If the banks do not advertise these services, prospective borrowers need simply make their own inquiries.

About the Author

John Atkins was the community manager for Self.

Written on August 25, 2016

Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings.
Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

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.

Ready to join Self?