The U.S. Financial System for New Immigrants

Moving to America means learning how to navigate a new financial system. This guide breaks down the basics and can help you work toward your goals.
Getting started

Money management in the U.S. for new immigrants

Navigating the sometimes-complex United States financial system can be daunting when you’re just starting out. We’ve gathered NerdWallet’s top resources for new immigrants who want to find housing, open a bank account, build credit and ground themselves in their new lives.

Once your basic needs are met, take a look at these topics to get a clear understanding of how they work and how you can find the best options for your financial situation.

Banking | Building Credit | Housing | Buying a Car | Paying for College | Money Transfers | Loans | Starting a Business | Resources for Undocumented Immigrants

NerdWallet's top picks

In the U.S., navigating the financial system often depends on your credit history, which is your track record of borrowing money and paying it back on time. Credit history can help you rent an apartment, buy a car and buy a home someday.
How to Apply for a Credit Card Without a Social Security Number

How to Apply for a Credit Card Without a Social Security Number

You can start building credit by opening a credit card. If you don’t have a Social Security number, you can get a similar identifier called an ITIN. Some credit cards don’t require an identification number at all.


How to choose and open a bank account

If you're new to the U.S. financial system, getting a bank account is a good first step. It allows you to manage your money with fewer fees, more convenience and more protection against fraud and loss.
Banking 101: Your Guide to Getting in the System

Banking 101: Your Guide to Getting in the System

Learn what documents you'll need to open an account, how to choose the bank or credit union that's right for you, where you can open an account and what to do if you get denied an account.

Hispanic American-owned financial institutions

Some institutions, like Hispanic American-owned credit unions, aim to make the process smoother for immigrants. Select the button below to see a list of Hispanic American-owned financial institutions by state.
Building credit

How to build credit

Building credit is essential in the U.S. The easiest way to start is by getting a credit card. We’ll help you understand how to build credit from scratch and how to do it responsibly.
Below, learn more about how to get a credit card and how to build your credit.

How to rent an apartment

Don’t be afraid to ask a landlord if they have a specific credit score requirement before you spend time or money applying for an apartment.

How to buy a home

You don't need to be a citizen to get a mortgage, but it could be tougher to provide enough documentation to get one.
How Home Buyers Who Aren’t Citizens Can Get a Mortgage

How Home Buyers Who Aren’t Citizens Can Get a Mortgage

Learn more about what kind of documentation you might need to get a mortgage in the U.S.

7 Best Mortgage Lenders for ITIN Loans

7 Best Mortgage Lenders for ITIN Loans

Whether you've obtained citizenship or not, there are home loan options and these mortgage lenders that can help.

Buying a car

How to buy a car

When shopping for a car, first figure out what you could afford to pay each month for a vehicle — and make sure to factor in costs like insurance and maintenance.

First-time car buyer guide

Select the button below to learn the 5 steps every first-time car buyer in the U.S. needs to take.
Paying for college

How to pay for college

Your immigrant status may affect how you pay for college. Start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which will help you understand whether you qualify for financial aid such as federal student loans before applying for private loans.
FAFSA Requirements

FAFSA Requirements

In some circumstances, noncitizens are eligible to apply for FAFSA.

Money transfers

How to send money back home

You have lots of options for transferring money to friends and family abroad, but try to avoid high fees.


How to borrow money — and avoid risky loans

It’s tough to access cash fast without a long credit history and high income, but you have options before considering high-cost payday loans. These options can help cover an urgent expense.
Best Alternatives to Payday Loans to Consider During a Crisis

Best Alternatives to Payday Loans to Consider During a Crisis

Credit unions, medical bill assistance and cash advance apps can help you avoid payday loans.

How to Find Better Alternatives to Payday Loans

How to Find Better Alternatives to Payday Loans

Use our database to find local nonprofits and organizations that can help you cover a small emergency, lower utility bills or meet your basic needs.

How to avoid predatory lenders

Predatory loans are high-cost, short-term loans that can trap you in a cycle of debt. Learn how to spot these risky loans and consider alternatives first.
Starting a business

How to start a business

Starting a business in the U.S. is no easy feat, especially if you’re an immigrant. Make sure you get all the permits and licenses you need, keep your business finances separate from your personal accounts and pay your business taxes.
How to Start a Business in 13 Steps

How to Start a Business in 13 Steps

Here’s everything you need to know about opening and operating your own business.

How to Start a Business as an Immigrant

How to Start a Business as an Immigrant

Some additional resources for immigrant business owners.

More info

Resources for undocumented immigrants

Additional resources

National Immigration Law Center
Find out if you're eligible for federal assistance.

Social Security
Find out if you're eligible for Social Security Income.

U.S. Department of Education
Are you a college or graduate student? Here's how to get student financial aid from the U.S. government.

Catholic Charities USA
Find local help meeting basic needs like accessing health care, getting affordable housing or finding a job.

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Type in "Help with [money, credit, starting a business, buying a home] near me."