What to Do if Your Applicant is on a Visa

While finding a suitable resident for your vacancies, you’ve probably come across applicants who are on a visa. Whether it’s a work or student visa, many of these applicants have no financial background in the United States, and this makes performing a credit check impossible. Everyone in the United States (regardless of whether they’re a citizen, a green card holder, or have a visa) is protected under the Fair Housing Act, which specifically covers “discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and the presence of children.”

To avoid a potential discrimination lawsuit, you should prepare your leasing process to include practices that can vet your applicants, equally. You should conduct a background screening check on all your applicants and allow all interested to fill out a rental application. To make the application process for visa holders easier, consider accepting these alternative forms of documentation:

  • Passports as Identification

You want to confirm that the applicant really is who they say they are, but in most cases, they probably don’t have a state-issued ID or driver’s license yet. The most reliable form of identification, in this case, would be their passport and using that information to run a criminal background check to see if the applicant has been in trouble within the U.S. or is on the terrorist watch list (OFAC).


  • Proof of Income

As with any applicant, you’ll need to see that the applicant has a steady source of income. Be aware that there are multiple ways to illegally create fraudulent paystubs online. A letter from their employer can easily be forged. Some ways which visa applicants can prove they’re reliable can be through copies of bank statements, tax returns and student grants.


  • Social Security Numbers, If Available

While some applicants with visas might have a social security number, it’s important to note that not everyone does. Regardless, you should always accept SSNs from applicants (as you can run a credit report on a SSN). You will not be able to run a credit report on a taxpayer identification number (TIN).  Some screening services, such as CICReports.com, have the ability to process a credit report without the SSN.


  • The Previous Landlord’s Contact Information

Another way you can see if the applicant is reliable is to contact their previous landlords. Considering that your time zones might conflict, request the landlord’s email address instead of their phone number. While this should not be your only means of figuring out whether or not an applicant is reliable, in combination of additional documents, contacting the previous landlord can help secure your final decision.

While allowing alternative forms of documentation like passports, tax returns or bank returns when making a rental decision will significantly help applicants on visas, it’s vital that the online rental application that you use has the capabilities to upload additional documents. This will not only make the application process simpler for all your applicants, but it will significantly reduce the amount of miscellaneous physical records you have to keep. You might even see a rise in applications.

Have you had an applicant on a visa before? How did you verify their identity and employment without a credit score? Let us know in the comments section below & be sure to subscribe!


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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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