You just received your offer letter from a college in New York City. It’s a dream come true, and celebrations are in order! But the big question as an international student is, where will I live in NYC? Let’s get real here, finding housing for international students to rent in NYC is complicated. Not just because you don’t have a steady paycheck or U.S. credit, but also because the coronavirus pandemic has made it more problematic.

There is also a list of essential documents you’ll need as an international student renting in NYC. You may not have a credit score or a relative living in America, but with the right tools, you can still find a great home.

Know your rights!

When you move to the US, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects you, whether you’re a citizen, a green card holder, or you’re here on a visa. Housing for international students renting in NYC is protected by FHA as well.

FHA prohibits discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, family, and relationship status. Your landlord must treat you like any other potential renter. However, to make sure your rental process is smooth, you must keep all your necessary documents in order.

What are the documents I should provide my landlord?

Once you have found the room or apartment you’ll rent, get a rental application form from your landlord or property manager. Before you submit your application, here’s a list of documents you must keep ready.

Paperwork and Documents & Why You Need Them

  • Passport or Photo ID: Verification of identity

  • Last 2 months of bank statements: Assess your financial situation

  • Proof of financial assistance: Additional documentation like scholarship or loan that helps landlord assess your financial situation

  • I-20 Visa: Legal document that proves you can live and work in the U.S.

  • School's offer letter: Legal document that proves you're in the US for education

  • Recommendation letters: Supports your rental application, vouches for your character

  • Employment letter (if any): Shows your landlord you'll have a steady income

Passport or Photo ID

If you're new to the U.S., you will not have a state-issued photo ID yet. International students renting in NYC need to provide their passports to their landlord or property manager for verification.

However, if you have already lived in the U.S. for a while, you can provide your driver's license or any other state-issued photo ID.

Proof of Financial Assistance

If you haven’t lived in the U.S., you won’t have a credit history to show your landlord, so you will need to provide a bank statement. It provides evidence to your landlord about your financial situation and how regularly you have made rental payments. Along with your bank statements, you may also have financial aid from your parents, scholarships, or a student loan.

TIP: In most cases, to sign your lease, you’ll need a guarantor or co-signor. A guarantor signs your lease and takes responsibility for your monthly payments if you can’t pay the rent. There are plenty of guarantors that help international students rent in NYC.

Related: What is a guarantor, and why do I need one?

Your I-20 Visa

For international students to rent in NYC, your visa needs to be active for the entire duration of the lease; this is an essential requirement. Your visa cannot expire before the lease ends.

Your School’s Offer Letter

The landlord will ask you for a copy of the letter of enrollment from your school. It works as proof of the statement that you’re here for education, and you need off-campus student housing to rent in NYC.

Landlord Recommendation Letter

International students renting in NYC are often asked to produce a recommendation letter to their landlord. It increases your chances of landing suitable student housing in NYC. You can provide a recommendation letter from your previous landlord, even if they’re from a different country. Additionally, you can ask your college to write a recommendation letter on your behalf.

Proof of Employment and Social Security Number

If you have secured a temporary job in the U.S., the U.S. government will provide you a social security number. You can give this number to your landlord as proof of employment.

Once you have provided these documents, you’re now ready to move into your student housing in NYC and take on the Big Apple!