Immigrating to Canada is a big step and starting a new life in Canada can be challenging. That’s why many banks and lenders offer mortgage options for new immigrants to help them get settled into their own home. This page will look at mortgages for newcomers, how they work, which banks offer them, and the requirements to qualify for a newcomers mortgage.
Most Canadians will need to get a mortgage loan in order to purchase a home. A newcomer mortgage is a special mortgage program offered by some banks in Canada for those new to Canada. They are designed to help newcomers get a mortgage even if they don’t meet the eligibility requirements for a regular mortgage. The main reasons why it can be difficult for newcomers to get a regular mortgage include:
Lack of Canadian Employment History
Banks like to see that you’ve been employed for at least the last two years in Canada. Having a work history shows that you have a stable level of income.
Unestablished Canadian Credit History
A bank will look at your credit report to see how you have been handling debt. This includes a history of payments, such as whether or not you have missed any payments or made late payments, along with your balances and credit limits. An established credit history shows that you have been consistently responsible with your finances.
For those new to Canada, you might not have a work history and credit history in Canada. With a newcomer mortgage program, banks are more lenient on their eligibility requirements. However, you will need to meet certain criteria in order to be considered a newcomer to Canada.
Mortgages for those new to Canada can be insured against mortgage default by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Sagen, or Canada Guaranty. These insurers all have basic borrower qualifications. In order to be eligible for a newcomers mortgage:
Immigrated to Canada within the last 5 years
In order to be considered a newcomer, you must have immigrated to Canada within the last 5 years. If you’ve been in Canada for longer than 5 years, you are no longer considered to be a new immigrant.
Have legal status in Canada
You must be in Canada as a temporary or permanent resident. This means that you should be a permanent resident/landed immigrant, or be a non-permanent resident with a work permit.
Have been employed full-time in Canada for at least 3 months
While you might not need to have 2 years of employment history for a new immigrant mortgage, you will need to have at least some full-time employment history. You will need at least three months of full-time employment history in Canada unless you are being relocated to Canada by your current employer.
Have a down payment of at least 5%
You will need to make a down payment of at least 5%. This minimum down payment requirement can be higher, such as if the home price is over $500,000. Your lender can require the minimum down payment to come from your own resources and savings, rather than being gifted or borrowed. Some lenders may require a higher down payment, such as 20%, if you’re not able to qualify for an insured mortgage. The minimum down payment can even be as high as 35% if you don’t have a Canadian credit history.
Meet qualification ratios
Your debt service ratio shows how much of your income goes to service your debt. The higher this ratio, the worse it is, since you’re spending more of your income to service debt. You will need to have a gross debt service ratio (GDS) of 39% or less, and a total debt service ratio (TDS) of 44% or less.
The mortgage stress test rate will be used to test your GDS and TDS ratios. Your foreign debt is included when calculating your GDS and TDS, but your foreign rental income is not included.
If you meet these basic qualifications, it’s now time to choose your mortgage lender. This could range from big Canadian banks to smaller local lenders. You can also work with a mortgage broker to help you get a newcomer mortgage.
Whether you haven’t arrived in Canada yet or you are already here, it’s never too early or late to start looking at your new immigrant mortgage options. Knowing the steps can help you prepare for your home search and being approved for a mortgage. Here are the steps to getting a newcomers mortgage in Canada:
Find out how much you can afford
Starting off the process by knowing how much you can afford will help you when you start looking for a home. You don't need to settle for a home that maxes out what you can afford either. Knowing your mortgage affordability lets you make an informed choice and lets you plan ahead. You can calculate your affordability by using online calculators. This gives you a rough guideline that you can follow. You’ll also want to start saving up for a down payment.
Build your Canadian credit history
You should try to build your Canadian credit history even before you decide that you want to buy a home. This can be as simple as paying your phone or cable bills. Many banks also offer free credit cards to newcomers that have no credit history. This allows you to start establishing a credit history and building your credit score.
Get a mortgage pre-approval
For a more firm answer of how much mortgage you can borrow, newcomers may want to get a mortgage pre-approval from a bank or lender. You will know the maximum mortgage amount that the lender is willing to let you borrow, along with rates and the monthly mortgage payment amount. You will also receive a mortgage pre-approval letter which you can then use when shopping for a home. You’ll also know how much down payment you will need to make so that you can start saving up for it.
Find a real estate agent
Once you have your finances in order, it’s time to find a local real estate agent. Your real estate agent will help you find a home and make an offer. Once your offer has been accepted, you’ll need to be approved for a mortgage. If you received a pre-approved mortgage from a bank or lender, you don’t necessarily need to get a mortgage with them. You can shop around with other mortgage lenders or use a mortgage broker to help you in your search for the best rate.
Mortgage default insurance is required for mortgages that have a down payment of less than 20%. If you plan on making a down payment of less than 20%, you will need to pay for mortgage default insurance. The three mortgage insurers in Canada for newcomer mortgages are CMHC, Sagen, and Canada Guaranty. These mortgage default insurers all have different guidelines and insurance premium rates. Your bank or mortgage lender may work with just one of these insurers, or more than one.
The CMHC is owned by the government and provides mortgage loan insurance through their CMHC Newcomers program. For permanent residents, you will need to have a minimum credit score of 600. If you're a permanent resident without a Canadian credit history, the CMHC will consider alternative sources of credit history, such as rent payment history and utility payment history. For non-permanent residents, such as those in Canada on a work permit, the CMHC will use your international credit report. If your international credit report cannot be verified, the CMHC may ask for a reference letter.
Other CMHC eligibility rules are the same as for other homebuyers. CMHC insurance is only available on homes with a maximum purchase price of $1 million. A minimum down payment of 5% is needed for the first $500,000, increasing to 10% of the remainder. The amortization period can't be longer than 25 years, and the GDS/TDS ratio limits are also 39% and 44%.
Non-permanent residents can only purchase a home with one unit that they will occupy, and will need to make a down payment of 10% or more. CMHC does not allow non-permanent residents to get mortgage insurance for rental property.
Permanent residents can purchase multi-unit homes that they occupy, with a 1-2 unit home requiring a minimum down payment of 5%, and a 3-4 unit home requiring a down payment of 10% or more. Permanent residents, including newcomers, can purchase rental property that is non-owner occupied. They will need to make a minimum down payment of 20% for 2-4 unit rental properties.
CMHC mortgage insurance premiums for newcomers are the same as the premiums for regular mortgages. To view premium rates, visit our CMHC insurance calculator.
Sagen is a private mortgage default insurer that is an alternative to CMHC insurance. Sagen's New to Canada Program allows new immigrants to purchase a home with a down payment of just 5% on homes that are $500,000 or less. For amounts above $500,000, there is a 10% down payment required. Just like CMHC, Sagen does not insure properties with a value greater than $1 million.
Newcomers with Sagen insurance can only purchase properties with a maximum of two units, with one of those units being occupied by the owner. Newcomers cannot purchase rental property that they will not be living in.
Sagen requires an international credit report from either Equifax or TransUnion if you make a down payment of less than 10%. If an international credit report is not available, Sagen will ask for two alternative sources of credit, such as rental payment history or a letter of reference, or bank statements.
Sagen Insurance Premium Rates for Newcomers Mortgages
|Loan-to-Value Ratio||Premium Rate|
|Up to 65%||0.60%|
|65.01% - 75%||1.70%|
|75.01% - 80%||2.40%|
|80.01% - 85%||2.80%|
|85.01% - 90%||3.10%|
|90.01% - 95%||4.00%|
Canada Guaranty’s Maple Leaf Advantage has the same criteria as Sagen. Newcomers can get Canada Guaranty mortgage insurance for resale or new construction homes, but not for non-owner occupied rental properties. Canada Guaranty’s insurance premium rates for newcomer mortgages are also the same as Sagen.
Canada Guaranty Insurance Premium Rates for Newcomers Mortgages
|Loan-to-Value Ratio||Premium Rate|
Buying a house in Canada does not give you residency or permanent resident status. In fact, anyone can purchase and own a home in Canada as long as they can afford it, including foreign nationals. While owning a home won’t increase your chances of being approved for permanent residence, it won’t hurt your chances either.
Yes, foreigners and non-residents can get a mortgage to purchase a home in Canada. However, banks will have more stringent requirements. For example, they can require a minimum down payment of 35% or more. You may also need to provide a reference letter from your bank, provide proof of income and proof of down payment, and have your international credit report checked. Your lender may also require you to have a Canadian bank account in order to make your mortgage payments.
Some insurers, such as Sagen and Canada Guaranty, will not consider any foreign rental income as part of your income calculation. Rental income from properties outside of Canada will not be counted towards your income when applying for a mortgage in Canada.
If you’re a permanent resident, you can qualify for first-time homebuyer incentives, such as land transfer tax rebates and the federal government's shared equity program. If you’re a non-permanent resident, such as if you’re a temporary worker or an international student, some provinces might not offer a land transfer tax rebate. For example, Ontario only provides a land transfer tax rebate for first-time homebuyers that are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Yes, you can buy a home in Canada at any time. However, it can be harder to evaluate homes if you aren’t able to do so in person. Virtual tours can be done online, and you may even be able to open a Canadian bank account before arriving in the country. Closing can also be done virtually. Fully online closings usually require you to meet using a platform such as Zoom or Skype. Your signatures for documents can be done electronically.
If you’ve been rejected by Canada’s major banks, then you can try using alternative mortgage lenders, such as B-lenders and private mortgage lenders. If you still can’t get approved for a mortgage, you can always try to get financing yourself from a lender in your home country, such as by borrowing against the equity in your home. Not everyone buying a home in Canada requires a mortgage either. According to Mortgage Professionals Canada, 14% of homes in Canada were bought using cash without a mortgage between 2013 and 2015. If you’re a foreigner with enough cash, you can purchase a home in Canada outright without needing to get a mortgage.