Do You Need to Be a U.S. Citizen to Get a Real Estate License in California?

Karen D. Friedman
Nov 25, 2021
5 min

Becoming a real estate agent isn’t a dream reserved only for United States citizens.

The idea of being your own boss and having unlimited earning potential spreads worldwide. Our international students aspire to become real estate agents too.

At CA Realty Training, we get people asking about the real estate licensing process.

One common question international students ask is, “Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to get a real estate license in California?”

The short answer: No.

But that doesn’t mean that anyone without citizenship can get their real estate license. You still have to follow specific requirements to become a real estate agent in the United States.

Let’s discuss how to get your United States real estate license if you’re not a citizen. But, first, let’s look at how you California allows you to get a real license without being a citizen.

Selling Real Estate Without a License

The state of California discovered people were practicing real estate without a license. Moreover, these people were not citizens.

This was because prior laws made getting a real estate license difficult for non U.S. citizens.

When people practiced real estate without a license, they were doing so under the table. This made transactions untaxed and risky.

Therefore, new laws were created to motivate people to get a license with proper training.

These laws protect people from being denied a license based on their citizenship status. So where did these laws begin?

It all started with the introduction of Senate Bill 1159.

What is Senate Bill 1159?

Senate Bill 1159 was introduced and signed in 2014 to amend sections of the Business and Professions Code, Family Code, and the Revenue and Taxation Code relating to professions and vocations.  

SB1159 changed the legal presence requirements to obtain a real estate license in California.

Removing the legal presence requirement means that applicants are no longer required to prove U.S. citizenship or legal alien status.

Before, license applicants were required to have a Green Card. A Green Card allows you to live and work permanently in the United States.

Without one, you could not apply for a real estate license.

What is Senate Bill 695?

Senate Bill 1159 was the stepping stone that allowed people to apply for a real estate license.

Although, the bill didn’t stop some agencies from asking for citizenship status when issuing a license.

Then in 2019, Senate Bill 695 was passed.

This bill prohibited the Department of Real Estate (DRE) and other agencies from gathering information on the applicant’s citizenship or immigration status

Additionally, Senate Bill 695 disallowed using status as a basis for licensure. In short, this protected non U.S. citizens from being denied a license.

Non U.S. Citizen Real Estate License Requirements

Although non U.S. citizens no longer have to show proof of presence, they still have to meet certain requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

An Individual Tax Identification Number is a tax processing number issued by the IRS to people who do not have a Social Security Number but are required to pay taxes.

People who would receive an Individual Tax ID Number include certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents.

How to Get Your Real Estate License as a Non U.S. Citizen

If you meet the requirements above, you are eligible for a real estate license in California.

But, before you can apply for your license, you have to take the required pre-licensing courses.

CA Realty Training has programs available to help you complete this requirement. We understand that not everyone learns in the same way. Therefore, each program offers its own advantages depending on how you learn:

Online Program Only

These courses are online and completed at your own pace.

The only regulation by the Department of Real Estate is that you have to spend at least 18 days per course (not maximum).

Additionally, you must take one course at a time. Therefore, you can complete the program in 54 days.

If you are self-motivated and learn best by reading, this program is a good choice.

PROS: Self-paced, fastest program, best for reading/writing learners

Online + Videos Program

This program has supplemental videos that add to the Online Program.

The videos are recordings of our in-class sessions featuring our head instructor. These videos supplement your online course reading.

The videos don’t cover everything in the chapters. But, they highlight important concepts and key terms as well as offer examples on how to apply them.

PROS: Self-paced, fast program, video resource, best for visual/auditory learners

Live Webinar + Online Program

For those that need support and guidance, we have a Live Webinar + Online program. Real estate agent trainers lead this 3-month program.

The live webinars are supplemental training designed to supplement your online courses.

Therefore, it gives you an educational environment. Here, trainers teach material based on their professional experience and the topic’s relevance.

PROS: Scheduled, interactive, best for visual/auditory learners

Final Thoughts on Getting a Real Estate License as a Non U.S. Citizen

These new laws have given non U.S. citizens a path to becoming real estate agents.  

Not being a U.S citizen is no longer a roadblock to becoming a real estate agent. So as long as you have the proper identification, you can take that first step and get your license.

TL;DR: Non-U.S. citizens can get a real estate license in California with eligibility requirements met such as passing real estate exam, completing education, background check and providing proof of legal presence. Check California Department of Real Estate (DRE) for any extra restrictions or requirements.

Karen D. Friedman
Nov 25, 2021
5 min