In a misguided effort to screen out “public charges,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service instituted a new rule late last year. If you are an immigrant, this new rule unfairly links your credit history to your immigration status. 

“public charge” is someone who depends on the U.S. government for some form of assistance. The new rule implies that if you have a poor or nonexistent credit history, or if you have a poor credit score, this makes you a poor immigration risk. While nothing could be further from the truth, the rule could negatively affect your immigration status if a CIS official decides your credit history or score fails to pass muster. 

“Credit invisibility” 

The first problem with the new rule is that as an immigrant, especially if a new one, you may be “credit invisible.” In other words, you may have no U.S. credit history because you have yet to establish one. Even if you had an excellent credit history in your native country, this does not necessarily transfer to the U.S. In addition, each country has its own credit standards, and an excellent credit score in your home country may be considerably lower than an excellent U.S. credit score. The new rule assumes that CIS officials know the difference and how to translate your home country score into its equivalent U.S. score. No one has reason to believe that CIS officials have this knowledge. 

Numerous U.S. credit reporting companies 

Another problem with the new rule is that it does not specify which credit reporting company the CIS will use to attempt to ascertain your credit report. Keep in mind that many U.S. credit reporting companies exist, including the following: 

  • Experian 
  • TransUnion 
  • Equifax 
  • LexisNexus 
  • FIS 

Even assuming you have established a good U.S. credit history, it may not show up in the records of the credit reporting company the CIS uses. 

Numerous U.S. credit scores 

The U.S. likewise has several credit scoring companies, including the following: 

  • FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) which itself has 16 different credit scores 
  • VantageScore 
  • PLUS Score (Experian) 
  • Equifax Credit Score (Equifax) 

The new CIS rule fails to state which credit score it will use. 

All in all, linking your credit history and score with your immigration status represents one more immigration hurdle you may find yourself facing.