There are lot and lots of credit card benefits for immigrants. That is, if you can manage credit cards wisely and pay off your bill each month. You can build credit and get cash back, travel rewards, and other rewards.
There are also particular benefits to having a credit card as an immigrant.
Credit Card Benefits for Immigrants
Many credit card companies work with immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. There is no law that says immigrants cannot get credit cards.
Building Credit to Be Able to Buy a Home or Make Another Large Purchase
Opening credit card accounts are important. Doing so helps you build a credit history — the history of how you manage credit. Without credit, anyone may have a difficult time buying a home or car, making other large purchases, or getting a loan to start a business. Lenders want to know they can trust you when letting you borrow money. They want to see that you have paid off credit before. Particularly for undocumented immigrants, it can be near impossible to take out a large loan without having a credit history. For these reasons, there is a lot of benefit to opening a credit card.
Paper Trail to Establish Time in the U.S.
A credit card can also be helpful in providing documentation of the time an immigrant has spent in the U.S. This is needed for many forms of immigration relief that require you to prove certain numbers of years of living in the U.S. For example, one of the most common defenses to deportation for lawful permanent residents (\”green card holders\”) who are facing deportation is called \”cancellation of removal for certain permanent residents\”. Among other things, this defense requires someone to establish they have lived in the U.S. continuously for 7 years. There is also a similar defense for people who are not green card holders that requires 10 years of continuous residence. Credit card statements are one way to demonstrate time in the U.S.
Preparing for Future Immigration Reform
Credit card statements can also help immigrants demonstrate a “paper trail” of time spent in the U.S. (bank account statements can also help). If congress finally ever gets around to passing immigration reform or benefits in the future, this could be helpful. For example, in 1986 congress passed a law that provided lawful status and a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants called the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (\”IRCA\”). IRCA required immigrants to establish they had entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982. It also required people to show they had resided continuously in the country since then. This could also be the case if the DREAM Act is passed providing lawful status to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and meet certain requirements.
What to Be Careful About with Credit Cards
The main thing to worry about credit cards is that they make it easy to go into debt. If you do not pay your credit card bills, the amount you still owe will grow with interest. Credit card interest rates can be very high. Therefore, make sure to pay off your credit card in bill in full every month. That is the only sure fire way to avoid credit card debt.