Getting a Credit Card as a US Immigrant

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Life is hard without a credit card, especially if you run a small business. Credit cards can help you pay for things when you don’t have money on hand but getting a credit card is often difficult for immigrants. In the United States, being approved on a credit card application is troublesome, even for permanent residents who have been citizens for years. With more than 1 million new legal immigrants coming to the country each year, establishing credit can be a cumbersome task. As for the illegal immigrants or individuals using a green card, getting a credit card is nearly impossible. While it’s not illegal for undocumented immigrants to get a credit card, it’s somewhat controversial. However, it may be possible for any interested immigrant to get what they need without jumping through a bunch of hoops. The Roadblocks to Getting a Credit Card as an Immigrant Banks and lenders often require a social security number or proof of citizenship to issue a credit card, which even some legal permanent citizens don’t have. Although there are no laws stating that a lender must verify citizenship to offer a line of credit, many will do so just to check a person’s financial history. Fortunately, there are some lenders who simply request proof of employment or an ITIN (Individual taxpayer identification number) to determine an applicant’s eligibility. There are three major roadblocks that get in the way of an immigrant obtaining a credit card, including: · Lack of credit history · Damaged credit · Alternative identification Both obstacles can be overcome with the right techniques. New immigrants who have never used an U.S. credit product may face numerous hurdles when applying for a card. Without enough history, lenders and card issuers can’t easily find the information needed for the underwriting process. Even with favorable accounts in their home country, many are left with “thin” or non-existent credit profiles because their original data may not transfer to the United States or be seriously considered by U.S. lenders. On the other hand, some immigrants have been able to establish credit at some point, only to destroy it along the way for one reason or another. This is usually due to most immigrants misunderstanding American credit reporting systems. The relative costs, procedures, and impacts of credit in this country are confusing at best, even for seasoned citizens. Immigrants are often confused about the documents needed to open an account as well. According to a recent survey of Latin American immigrants, 25% believes that opening a bank account requires a U.S. government-issued driver’s license and social security number. However, a survey done by the FDIC in 2012 found that most banks accept foreign passports, consular IDs, and other forms of identification. Navigating the Roadblocks to Get a Credit Card There are numerous ways around the roadblocks that stand in between you and a credit card, especially if you practice responsible financial habits. 1. Look for Cards That Are Aimed at Immigrants Several credit card companies offer accounts geared towards immigrants. Typically, those cards don’t require such a high credit score or co-signer, nor do they need a long credit history to begin active. Deserve EDU and CreditStacks cards are two companies that offer great starter cards to those who pay their balance in full each month. A SSN isn’t required either, and applicants can get approved before migrating to the U.S. 2. Find a Co-Signer By adding a reliable co-signer to your credit card application, the chances of you being approved are increased. While doing this may not be a surefire approval, linking up with another responsible person can bode well on your behalf. Look for someone with a strong credit history because, to lenders, it guarantees your debt will be paid in a timely manner. 3. Become an Authorized User on a Tradeline The term “tradeline” is just another word for “credit account.” Becoming an authorized user on well-established tradelines gives you the opportunity to piggyback on someone else’s good credit history. The data pulled from the joint report reflects on your own and will build credit scores, thereby making it much easier to get approved for your own loans and credit cards. NOTE: This option can backfire for both people if there’s no a fair and well-organized agreement. To benefit from this trick while maintaining security, purchase seasoned tradelines from a trust source. 4. Get a Secured Credit Card When you can’t yet get a regular credit card, opt instead of a secured one. It may be easier to find and manage a pre-paid credit account, especially if you’ve yet to establish an impressive history. Eventually, you’ll be able to apply for an unsecured credit card which often requires little more than a form of identification and your stated income. This article was written by for For Sales and Support, please contact us at 203-518-8071, or email us at: . For Media Relations, please contact .