Getting a Car Loan When You Aren't a US Citizen

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, - September 19, 2018

Starting out in a new country can be both exciting and stressful. Sometimes – especially in the US – you’ll find out quickly that a car is necessary in order to get around. As a legal resident alien in the US, there are certain requirements you need to meet in order to qualify for financing options on a vehicle loan.

Qualifying for Vehicle Financing as a Non-Citizen

As a foreign national in America, there are often few options when it comes to getting a car loan. This is because lenders in the US rely on credit reports and credit scores, which are accessed using your social security number (SSN). Without the credit history attached to a SSN, lenders are reluctant to take on the risk of approving a loan since they can’t analyze credit history as they normally would.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t options, however. If you need a vehicle during your stay here, you’re more likely to find success with a personal loan or auto loan from a service that works with non-citizen residents. You can use these lenders to purchase an affordable car with cash, either from a dealership or a private seller.

These lending services typically exist online, and you have to provide extensive documentation to them as part of the approval process for foreign nationals. This information includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Your Visa
  • Your passport
  • A letter from your employer
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of Legal Presence
  • Proof of residence
  • A valid US driver’s license

Some other qualifications may exist depending on the state you’re living in. Keep in mind there’s never a guarantee of approval. But, if you’re here as an international student, you may have a better chance of financing a vehicle.

International Student Car Programs

Like personal and auto loan programs for foreign nationals, many international student car loan programs come from online lending institutions such as Stilt, Lendbuzz, Nomad, and Boro. These loans may be used to purchase a vehicle from a number of dealers, and carry many of the same requirements as typical resident alien auto loans, with some obvious differences (proof of university enrollment and grade point average instead of employer, for example). But, there are also some programs that exist directly through automotive manufacturers – like Volvo – that allow international student to lease a car through specialized programs.

For Volvo’s program, vehicles are leased by making one upfront payment that covers the entire lease term, and the car is simply turned in at a designated Volvo dealer at lease end, or departure (whichever occurs first). Volvo requires students to hold an international driver’s license, have proof of college enrollment and status, and hold a passport issued by a non-sanctioned country. Other manufacturers have similar programs, but many are based on dealership-specific programs and may not be available in all areas.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, financing a vehicle as a foreign national, non-citizen resident, or international student may take a bit more paperwork than financing a car as a US citizen, but it’s possible if you know where to look for the right lenders.

With CarsDirect, you can research new and used car inventory to find vehicles that may be right for you. This way, you know what you can expect when you’re preparing for your auto loan. We’re not a lender, so we can’t finance you, but we do match car buyers to local dealerships. Plus, we want you to be informed so you can have the best car buying experience you can!

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


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