If you are in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, you will probably need to rent an apartment, home or condominium at some point during your stay.
As a non-citizen, you may be worried that it is difficult to find a rental unit in the U.S., but the process is largely the same regardless of whether you are a citizen or not. No matter what, everyone who applies for an apartment in the U.S. will have to verify employment information and other similar details to prove that they are financially able to pay rent.
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Because legal permanent residents have different documentation than U.S. citizens, the exact steps required to verify financial information may differ slightly. However, with the correct documentation, it is possible to for an applicant to get through the process regardless of his or her citizenship. Below, learn everything there is to know about renting an apartment or home in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident.
Can I rent an apartment in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” Every person residing in the U.S., regardless of whether they are a citizen, have a visa or hold a green card, is protected under the Fair Housing Act. Under this act, a landlord cannot discriminate against you based on your national origin, color, religion, race, sex, disability status or family status. In other words, landlords are required to treat you like any other prospective renter, regardless of your immigration status
Your Rights Under the Fair Housing Act
As a legal permanent resident, it is important to understand all of your rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. If you suspect that a landlord is discriminating against you due to your immigration status or any other factor, you may report the landlord to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is illegal for a landlord to use threats or intimidation to prevent you from submitting a complaint to HUD.
With that in mind, a landlord may legally request documents to verify your eligibility for renting an apartment. However, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must use the same screening procedure for you as they would for citizens who apply for an apartment. Overall, simply keep in mind that landlords are required to use consistent policies in vetting applicants, regardless of where an applicant is coming from or which documents are used to verify one’s identity, lawful presence and financial information.
Choosing the Right Apartment
Before submitting any applications, you will want to take your time to research different housing options. Consider the following factors when choosing which apartments to apply for:
- How much the rent is.
- How long the lease or rental term is.
- Which utilities and other amenities are covered in your rent.
- How much it would cost to pay for amenities, such as internet, which are not covered by rent.
- What the apartment’s rules are, such as pet policies.
Most apartments and other units in the U.S. will charge monthly rent rather than weekly rent. However, it is always a good idea to check and make sure, as apartments in larger, more globalized cities may have weekly rent options.
In apartments that charge monthly rent, you will usually have to sign a 12-month lease. If your visa expires soon or you are planning on leaving the U.S. before the term of a 12-month lease is up, you may want to consider an apartment with a shorter rental period. Six-month terms as well as month-to-month rental options are available. However, keep in mind that tenants usually pay slightly higher rent when they sign a month-to-month agreement.
Determining How Much Rent You Can Afford
Cost is perhaps the most important thing to consider before applying for an apartment. In the U.S., it is standard to pay about 30 percent of your income on rent. A landlord may choose to deny any application if he or she believes that the prospective tenant does not make enough money to consistently pay rent on time. In other words, you may have trouble getting approved for an apartment that would cost significantly more than 30 percent of your income.
When calculating how much rent you can afford, remember to factor in extra living expenses that are not included in your rent. For example, if utilities are not included, you may want to determine how much it would cost to pay for these yourself and include the expense in your calculations.
How to Apply for an Apartment in the U.S.
Once you have found an apartment that you are serious about, it is time to submit an application. Be prepared to pay an application fee, which will cover administrative costs as well as your background check. Note that all prospective tenants are required to pass a background check regardless of their citizenship status. Your application may be denied if you do not clear the background check, which is the case for citizens as well.
Next, you will need to present documentation that verifies your identity and shows that you have the financial means necessary to pay your rent. It is common for landlords to request the following documentation:
- A passport or government-issued ID card is required to verify who you are. Most of the time, your ID must have a photo on it.
- A Social Security Number, if you have one, can be included on your application to help verify your identity and legal presence in the U.S. You can still be approved for an apartment if you do not have a Social Security Number, provided that you can show adequate proof that you are in the U.S. legally. If you have a visa, green card or permanent resident card, you should be prepared to show this documentation.
- Proof of employment must be shown so that your landlord can see that you have a source of income that will cover your rent. You can usually show pay stubs or even a statement from your employer on company letterhead to meet this requirement.
- Proof of financial assistance may be required if you are a student attending school in the U.S. Showing evidence of your scholarships, loans or even funds you have received from your parents or relatives can help verify that you have enough money to afford rent.
- A bank statement or other financial record may be required so that the landlord can verify your financial history if you have not lived in the U.S. long enough to have a credit history.
- Referrals from previous landlords can help show that you have a strong rental history, which is especially beneficial if you do not have a long credit history in the U.S.
Steps to Take After Getting Approved
Upon being approved for an apartment, it is standard procedure for the landlord to take a security deposit. In many cases, the deposit will be equivalent to one month’s rent, but you may have to pay a larger deposit if you do not have a credit history in the U.S.
Assuming you do not cause damage to your apartment during the time you live there, you can expect to receive most of your security deposit back when your lease is over. Depending on the apartment complex’s policies, a portion of your security deposit may be held in order to clean the unit after you leave.
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