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Home ownership for undocumented residents

Undocumented Florida residents often share the American dream of home ownership but may find it difficult to imagine being able to qualify for a mortgage. While some take questionable or difficult approaches to buying a home, the use of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers is becoming a viable alternative. Prior to the crash of the housing and mortgage markets between 2007 and 2009, the practice of issuing mortgage loans using ITINs instead of Social Security numbers was becoming more predominant. A 2003 rule established by the Treasury Department allowed bank accounts to be established with ITINs, and many small community banks and credit unions were early participants in using this identification for mortgage eligibility.

As the market recovers, the availability of such mortgages is again becoming an option for those who may not have permanent residency. While those primarily offering such mortgages are immigrant-friendly credit unions, Citigroup is a larger lender offering this approach to home ownership. Additional reports indicate that Wells Fargo may be exploring the option.

Statistics indicate that 35 percent of individuals living in the U.S. without legal residency own homes. That percentage is 10 percent higher for those living in the country for at least a decade. Amid speculation about immigration law reform, some have even mentioned the benefits of home ownership in demonstrating good moral character. Those who are undocumented and seeking the opportunity to own a home may be interested in researching ITIN mortgages. It is important to note that undocumented immigrants can be susceptible to predatory lenders.

It may be helpful to have a lawyer review loan terms to ensure that an option is legitimate to ensure that predatory practices aren't in play. Additionally, it may be helpful to discuss home ownership options with a lawyer in the context of seeking permanent U.S. residency.

Source: MSNBC, "The American Dream, undocumented", Suzy Khimm, August 28, 2014

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