Mortgage Options for New Immigrants

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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.

What You Should Know

  • Newcomer mortgages have more lenient guidelines than traditional mortgages for those without Canadian credit history or employment history
  • You will need to have been in Canada for less than 5 years to be considered a new immigrant
  • Both permanent residents and non-permanent residents can get a newcomers mortgage, but non-permanent residents may have higher down payment requirements
  • The minimum down payment can be as low as 5% for homes less than $500,000, or 35% or more if you don’t have any credit history
  • You should try to build your Canadian credit history as soon as possible. Some banks offer free credit cards for newcomers even if they don’t have any credit history
  • Not all lenders will allow non-permanent residents to purchase rental property in Canada
  • Mortgage default insurance for newcomer mortgages are offered by CMHC, Sagen, and Canada Guaranty

What Is a Newcomer 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.

Am I Eligible for a Newcomers Mortgage?

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.

Newcomer Mortgage Lenders

RBC
RBC Mortgages for Newcomers to Canada
  • No Canadian credit history required
  • You can make a down payment less than 20%, but you'll need to pay for mortgage default insurance and your amortization will be limited to 25 years
  • If you make a down payment that is 20% or more, you can have an amortization period of up to 30 years
  • You can only make a down payment less than 35% if you have at least two years of employment history
  • If you haven't been working for at least two years, or cannot confirm your employment, then the minimum down payment is 35% if you have been working for at least three months in Canada
  • RBC may ask for a letter of reference from a bank in your home country if you don't have at least two years of employment history
Scotia Bank
Scotiabank StartRight Mortgage Program
  • Available for permanent residents that have been in Canada for three years or less
  • Also available to temporary residents, such as international students and foreign workers, that want to buy a home in Canada
  • The minimum down payment is 5%, but Scotiabank may require you to make a larger down payment
  • Mortgage default insurance may be required if you make a down payment less than 35%
  • The down payment cannot be gifted or borrowed
TD Bank
TD Mortgages for Newcomers
  • No Canadian credit history is required if you are a permanent resident and have been in Canada for 5 years or less
  • You must have proof of residency, such as a permanent resident card, confirmation of permanent residence, or a temporary permit
CIBC
CIBC Mortgages for Newcomers
  • CIBC has three mortgage programs for newcomers: the CIBC Newcomer to Canada Program Mortgage, the CIBC Newcomer to Canada PLUS Program Mortgage, and the CIBC Foreign Worker Program Mortgage
  • The CIBC Newcomer to Canada Program Mortgage is for newcomers that have been in Canada for less than 5 years, have a limited Canadian credit history, but have enough Canadian income to qualify for a mortgage
  • The CIBC Newcomer to Canada PLUS Program Mortgage is for permanent residents or Canadian citizens that are returning to Canada, and don't require any Canadian credit history
  • CIBC Foreign Worker Program Mortgage is for temporary residents that have a work permit that is valid for 12 months or more and requires no Canadian credit history
CIBC
BMO Newcomers to Canada Mortgage
  • BMO’s NewStart Program makes it easy for newcomers to Canada to start building their credit history with a Canadian credit card, even if they don’t have an existing credit history
  • BMO's mortgage for newcomers has a 130-day rate guarantee, which gives you time to find a home to buy or to compare mortgage rates with other lenders
CIBC
HSBC New to Canada Mortgage
  • HSBC Canada’s Newcomers Program lets you pre-open a Canadian bank account before you arrive in Canada if HSBC operates in your country
  • HSBC can consider your foreign credit history for your HSBC mortgage

Desjardins Newcomers to Canada Package

  • Desjardins lets you start building your credit score quicker with a free credit card without needing any credit history
  • As Quebec’s largest mortgage lender, Desjardins offers a variety of mortgage products with competitive mortgage rates

Steps to Getting a Newcomers 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 for Newcomer Mortgages

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.

CMHC Newcomers

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 New to Canada Program

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 RatioPremium 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 Maple Leaf Advantage

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 RatioPremium Rate
≤ 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%

Newcomers Mortgage FAQ

Can I immigrate by buying a property in Canada?

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.

Can foreigners get a mortgage in Canada?

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.

Can I use my foreign rental income when applying for a newcomers mortgage?

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.

Can I qualify for first-time homebuyer incentives as a newcomer?

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.

Can I buy a home before I arrive in Canada?

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.

What if I am a foreigner and I can’t get approved for a Canadian mortgage?

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.

The calculators and content on this page are provided for general information purposes only. WOWA does not guarantee the accuracy of information shown and is not responsible for any consequences of the use of the calculator.