Regulation of land ownership rights for non-U.S. citizens is generally reserved to the states. But generally speaking, aliens and non-nationals are allowed to purchase, convey, devise and own real property. While the specific details of transactions may vary by state, most purchase of real estate by non-citizens is done through cash rather than loans.
As mentioned, there are very few restrictions on the ownership of property for non-nationals. However, there are usually some requirements that need to be met if the non-citizen is attempting to secure the home through a loan or mortgage. Most mortgage companies require:
- A permanent resident card (i.e. “green card) along with social security number; OR
- Temporary resident status, plus work permit and valid social security number
These types of documents will help ensure the lender that the borrower has sufficient income to maintain the loan payments. In addition, some lenders may require that the non-citizen has resided in the U.S. continuously for the past 2 years prior to the application, has a good credit history, and has a steady employment arrangement. In fact, the mortgage lender may be required to research this information according to laws like the Patriot Act.
Normally, disputes over property owned by a non-citizen won’t be a problem for either party. Non-citizens, especially permanent residents, are entitled to many consumer rights in home purchases. Thus, for non-residents who are validly in the U.S., disputes over property shouldn’t produce any extra legal hassles.
However, if the alien is in the country illegally, a dispute over property may lead to a disclosure of their illegal status. For example, the property dispute may lead to an investigation regarding the person’s background, and the alien may then face consequences such as removal (deportation), or being prohibited from entering the country if they leave.
If you or a loved one has any questions regarding the land ownership rights of non-citizens, you may wish to hire a real estate lawyer for advice. A qualified and experienced attorney in your area can help research the laws to ensure that you qualify for home purchase and ownership. Also, in the event of a property or contract dispute, your lawyer can represent you in a court of law.