Being a non-U.S. resident, obtaining a credit card can be difficult, as there are many legal issues you have to overcome. Financial institutions are hesitant to offer credit cards to non-residents primarily because they are considered high risk -- you may accumulate debt and abandon repayment. It becomes a lot harder for the credit card issuer to take you to court and collect judgment in case you max out your credit card and leave the country. However, you can still access credit card products from some companies if you meet their requirements.
Learn the Process
You will need to learn and understand the basics of borrowing and lending. Credit cards are contract loans that require regular repayment. Your usage is reported to the major credit bureaus, as well as other data such as the date the credit card was opened, credit limit and the amount you owe. This information is used by lenders and other businesses to make objective decisions. Check your credit report every year to monitor for errors or fraud. Keep your credit score high by maintaining your debt at zero or very low and make on-time payments.
Qualify for Legal Identification
Some of the requirements for a non-U.S. resident to qualify for a credit card are proof of U.S. residence by way of a physical address and a valid Social Security number. As a new resident, you will need to apply for a Social Security card from the Social Security Administration. This may be issued on a temporary basis if you are authorized to work in the U.S. by the Immigration and Naturalization Service or by virtue of your entry status, such as being a Green Card beneficiary or by marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Secured Credit Card
Community banks and credit unions are a good starting point for an immigrant borrower without citizenship, but with permanent residency. Armed with a Social Security number, you can apply for a secured credit card by making a deposit that typically ranges between $300 and $500, which serves as collateral against the credit limit. Some financial institutions will allow larger security deposits. This deposit, or the amount left on the card, will be refunded after a period of time when you transition to a regular credit card.
Department Store and Gas Cards
Some department stores and gas stations may offer credit cards to individuals who meet their specific requirements, so they are good for establishing credit. Although they are typically easier to obtain than regular credit cards, they normally have lower credit limits and high interest rates. As a resident in the local community, you may be considered for these store-branded credit cards.
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