The Tiny house Blog

Renting as a Non-Citizen in the USA: Practical Advice for Immigrant House Hunters

Updated on:
March 19, 2024
Renting as a Non-Citizen in the USA

Image Source: Canva

In the US, renting as a non-citizen is a bit different than renting as a citizen. Overall, you can rest assured that it is easy to rent as a non-citizen if you prepare properly.

The good news is that millions of non-citizens rent apartments and houses in the US every year. For a landlord, it’s not surprising or special to have non-citizens trying to rent their properties. Renting to a non-citizen is a situation that many landlords are fully prepared for.

The bad news is that you will need to do a bit more than a US citizen would to legally rent a property in the US. Also, renting in the US can be confusing if it’s your first time. That’s true if you’re from the country as well.


Unlocking the Secrets of Renting as a Non-Citizen in the USA

First, understand that you are entitled to apply for any rental unit and to be treated equally (more on that soon).

 The main challenge of renting as a non-US citizen is that landlords will have difficulty screening you. Because you will be living on a property that they own, they will want to make sure:

  •  Renting to you is legal
  • Renting to you is safe

Anyone who lives in a rented space must prove:

  • Their identity (they are who they say they are)
  • Their income (they are able to pay the agreed-upon rent)
  • Their safety to the public (criminal background check)


General rental requirements

Anyone seeking to rent a space in the US should be prepared to present  the following to the landlord/agent:

  • State-issued identificationsome text
    •  Passport
    • US driver’s license
    • Other identification
  • Proof of incomesome text
    • Pay stubs
    • Proof of financial assistance (mainly for students)
    • Proof of savings
    • An official job offer with employer contact information
  • General financial informationsome text
    • Your bank statements for the last two months
    • Tax returns
  • (Optional) a referral letter from a previous landlord


 What you need to rent in the US as a non-citizen

As a non-citizen, you are expected to meet the same criteria as a citizen. However, the nature of your residence in the US requires extra steps when trying to rent.

First, you may lack some of the above documentation. That’s fine!.You don’t need to worry if you don’t currently have an SSN, but you must provide government-issued identification. Or, you can request a social security number online and pick it up at your local Social Security office.

For taxes, you can present your Form 1040NR (Non-resident Alien Income Tax Return) as an alternative.Lastly, you will need a valid visa to prove you legally reside in the US.


Can a Foreigner Rent a House in the USA?

Yes, foreigners can rent any residential space in the US. The requirements are the same as those listed above.

Finding a decent house is easier with the help of immigrant-friendly networks and organizations.

Seek out reputable specialized real estate agents or members of the community who have the experience you need. These agents are likely to speak your language and be able to guide you through the process.


Can a Foreigner Rent an Apartment in the US?

Yes, foreigners can rent any residential space in the US. The requirements are the same as those listed above. Everyone is entitled to equal treatment, including non-citizens and illegal immigrants. Any questions the landlord asks you must also be asked to all other rental applicants.

As with houses, apartments can be found listed online in:

  • Social media
  • Rental websites
  • General commercial websites like Craigslist

Go through listings carefully and never feel like you must rush to make a decision. Many apartments and/or landlords are not going to be the right fit for you. So, try to take your time and ask others their opinions.


Tips for a Smooth Rental Experience

Non-residents can have an easier time finding a house or apartment to rent by following a few key guidelines:

  • Build a strong rental application with referrals from employers and previous landlords
  • Establish a credit history with low-interest credit cards you pay back in full (this enables you to build credit for free, so long as you don’t miss any payments

Staying connected with people you know back home is important for many reasons, including building a new life in the US. Services like BOSS Revolution give you mobile top-up options and keep you in touch with family and friends back home. These steps ensure you have an easier transition into your American life.



Honest landlords and agents will treat you equally even though they may require some extra steps from you. Criminals such as scammers, however, will not. Scammers may target foreigners who are unfamiliar with renting in the US for scams. So, make sure you remember to:

  • Never wire transfer money for the first or last month’s rent or deposit or hand over cash (you may not get it back)
  • Never give in to high-pressure sales tactics (this is a sign of unscrupulous landlords and agents) to high-pressure sales tactics (this is a sign of unscrupulous landlords and agents)
  • Not pay anything to anyone without meeting them in person first
  • Never share your SSN or other personal details via email or phone

Scams are increasingly common in the US, so be careful to protect your identity and property.


Legal Rights and Responsibilities

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to refuse to rent to someone based on their country of origin. It also makes it illegal to change the rent price or terms based on your country of origin. Landlords must provide the same rental applications and process your application in the same way

Landlords can charge any rent price they want at the start. It is also normal to apply a security deposit to a tenant at the beginning of the lease. The amount they can ask for depends on the state.

Building a Support Network

One great way to ensure an overall good rental experience is to join online and in-person communities that speak your language and/or are able to assist you. Some common problems for which help is needed include:

  • Translating documents
  • Getting useful tips about the area
  • Moving closer to a good, safe community

Also, try to stay connected with your communities and your friends and loved ones back home. It’s normal to need help when adjusting to life in a new country.


Additional Resources

 Try looking at these resources to find a rental property more easily:

Wrapping Up

Renting as a non-citizen in the US is not so difficult. However, there may be some challenges due to the extraordinary requirements you must meet. You are protected with the same rights as US citizens but may face challenges with some documentation or with the specific way property rental works in the US.

Both challenges can be overcome using the tips we have gone over. So, get started looking for your new home without worry! 

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