How to Find an Apartment without a Social Security Number

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I am trying to use simpler English for this article. I hope that this will make it easy for machine translators to convert the text correctly. I apologize that I am not able to translate it myself. To my English-speaking readers: the language I use here may seem a little strange. Machine translators read language in a different way than humans do.

We have posted six parts of this series for “unprotected minorities”. You can find links to the other parts at the end. This time I want to speak to renters who do not have social security numbers. Most U.S. citizens have a social security number. Many new immigrants and international students do not have these numbers.

The laws of the United States protect many people from being refused housing based on the things they cannot control. These things include their race, their religion, their age, their children and their disabilities. But the country’s laws do not protect people from being refused housing based on their immigration status. Some states have laws that do protect people based on their immigration status. Illinois does not have this sort of law.

Landlords like to check the history of tenants who want to live in their apartments. But many people have the same first name and last name. Landlords use the social security number to make sure that they are not reading the history of another person with the same name. They must use another company to look up the history. It is possible to use other numbers to identify a renter. But the history research companies do not always allow landlords to use other numbers. When a landlord cannot find the history of a renter they become fearful of the renter. They may turn down the renter. If you do not have a social security number you must learn how to find a landlord who will not be fearful of you.

I was a real estate agent for many years. I worked with many renters who did not have social security numbers. In this article I will tell you what I have learned from this work.

Look at the neighborhoods with many students.

There are many international college students. Some colleges such as technical schools and medical schools have more international students than others. Landlords who house these students will be more comfortable with housing immigrants. They will have more practice in finding the history of immigrants.

Look in newspapers that aren’t written in English.

Some cities have newspapers that are written in other languages. They may be very small newspapers. Even small newspapers will have some advertisements for apartments to rent. Sometimes the foreign language of the newspaper is not your native language. But the landlords who buy these ads are more likely to accept immigrant renters without being fearful.

You can also ask at church or temple services that are offered in foreign languages. You can ask at the sports events that attract the fans from other countries.

Bring 1 year of bank statements.

Landlords want to know if you pay your bills on time. This is why they check your history. Bank statements can also show them that you pay your bills on time. If you bring these bank statements with you, it will save them many days. They will not have to wait for your foreign bank to send the information.

Bring your visa and your passport.

Some landlords do not like to have immigrants living in the apartments. They will be very rude to you. They may report you to the ICE. Bring your papers to prove that you are in the United States legally.

Bring a drivers license.

Many history research companies can use a drivers license number instead of a social security number. You can get a drivers license in Illinois without having a social security number. If you have bought a drivers license you can try to give the number to the landlord.

Provide many people who can confirm your history.

If a landlord cannot find your history, they may ask to call people who know you. These people are your “references.” It is best to offer the landlord many of these people. The best people you can offer are your boss, your banker or your old landlord. It is best to pick people who are United States Citizens. You should pick people who speak English. You should ask these people before you give a landlord their name and phone number.

Ask many questions up front.

It takes a lot of time to look at an apartment. Before you waste this time you should ask the landlord many questions. Have they ever accepted a tenant with no social security number? Have they ever accepted a tenant with no credit score? Do any of the landlord’s employees speak your native language?

Offer to pay in advance.

Some landlords are fearful of you because they think you will not pay them every month. You can make them less fearful by offering to pay many months of rent when you move in. This is very expensive! The landlord may want six or even twelve months of rent in one payment. But you will not have to make any more payments until the six or twelve months are finished.

Offer to have a cosigner or a roommate.

Some landlords are fearful of you because they do not speak your native language. They may be fearful because they think you will run away back to your home country. A cosigner is someone who signs the apartment contract but does not live with you. If you stop paying or leave the country the landlord can ask the cosigner to pay your bill. You could also find a roommate that is not an immigrant. The landlord may not be so fearful with the roommate.

Have a lot of patience.

Some landlords have many renters without social security numbers. They know how to find your history anyways. But the international history research can take a very long time. History research for US citizens can be finished in five minutes. History research for international renters can take over one week. You must be very patient.


Finding an apartment without a social security number can be a big challenge. It can take a long time. If you remember that the landlord is fearful of you it becomes a little easier. You must do everything you can to make them comfortable. Landlords find it very hard to trust people. You must provide proof so that they trust you. There are many landlords who will accept you. Keep trying and you will find them.

Check out more articles in our "Unprotected Minorities" series, featuring apartment hunting tips for:

... Exotic Pet Owners
... Overweight Renters
... Night Owls
... Introverts
... Homeowners
... Frail renters

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.