Credit card for non-citizens?
July 17, 2005 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Credit cards for non-citizens/permanent residents?

I've noticed that many credit card applications ask if the applicant is a citizen or permanent resident. Does anyone know of a good issuer that does not require this? The applicant in question is here on a H1-B visa and has been and plans to be around for a while. I've seen some secured credit cards that don't require citizenship/permanent residence, but I'm looking for regular un-secured cards that don't care.
posted by reverendX to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mentioned previously in somewhat different form.
posted by jessamyn at 4:05 PM on July 17, 2005

Back when I first dealt with this (2000), I had to spend a year with a secured credit card (I tried applying for a bunch of unsecured ones, but got rejected, and the number of recent credit applications counts against your credit score making things worse...)

Usually it was not so much an issue of being a permanent resident (I don't remember being asked that), as having an established credit record.
posted by blender at 4:46 PM on July 17, 2005

Wells Fargo gave me (then H-4) and my parents (then both H-1B) credit cards through the bank pretty readily. However, we're all Canadian citizens so that might make it easier or different somehow.
posted by ruwan at 10:22 PM on July 17, 2005

As with all banking problems, the solution is a credit union. If the person is H-1B, they probably qualify for a work-related credit union, such as First Tech for tech industry workers, which will issue credit cards to newly arrived H-1Bs who (obviously) have no credit record here.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:40 PM on July 17, 2005

Can I tack on to this question?

If you're not even living in that country, never mind not having citizenship or the right to work there, is it possible to get a credit card from that country, secured or unsecured? Particularly, I'd be interested in a US credit card...
posted by shepd at 12:20 AM on July 18, 2005

I'm assuming you're in the US, but I had a similar situation when I migrated to Australia a few years ago. It was impossible to get a credit card as a non-resident without being able to prove an income of AUD $70K. In the end I just waited it out, sent in the application as soon as my visa came through, and it was approved in about thirty seconds.

As for shepd's question, I've technically still got a Visa check card (which functions as a credit card for online purchases) from England, because I kept my bank account there when I moved to Oz. I no longer live, work, or have residency there. So it's possible, but you have to be legit first.
posted by web-goddess at 1:31 AM on July 18, 2005

We were in the same situation (H-1B). The solution was to apply by phone. The lady never asked anything about citizenship or permanent residency.

However, it would be very useful to borrow a small sum from your local bank or credit union, 6-12 months before applying for a credit card, so that you will have some kind of credit history.
posted by Ervin at 3:41 AM on July 18, 2005

I've been through this. I started working on the US on a TN-1 (temporary technical Visa, good for one year but renewable indefinitely). I couldn't get a Visa or Mastercard from anyplace I tried: Basically I had no credit history, so even though I had a high salary from their point of view I was effectively as risky as a high school kid.

Discover seems to have very lax requirements, I applied on a whim to get a discount on airline tickets and I was approved. This was in 1997. Once I had the Discover card I had a credit history so when I applied for 'real' credit cards in 6 months I was accepted.

The most harnessed was my bank at the time, M&I, I was a couple days late on a payment once and they revoked my credit card.
posted by substrate at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2005

I'm a H-1B, and was a J-1. The "no credit history" thing applies to any immigrant and can be gotten around the usual ways (get a secured card, have someone get you an "additional card" on their account) and I've gotten credit cards no problem.

But the citizen/perm resident check boxes on the application forms are new, I think a post 11 Sept thing. The advice above to phone in an application (preferably to your own bank) is good because I can confirm that checking "no" will get you turned down.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:37 AM on July 18, 2005

The best way is to become a member of a credit union. They normally do not have citizenship requirements, and you can then apply for a credit card, which is routinely approved.
posted by vjz at 9:39 AM on July 18, 2005

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