Can a Foreigner Become a Real Estate Agent in California?

Can a Foreigner Become a Real Estate Agent in California?

Published by Kartik Subramaniam

Reading Time : 5 minutes

Citizen real estate license

Can a Foreigner Become a Real Estate Agent in California?

California's thriving real estate market attracts investors, professionals, and those from around the globe. The allure of diverse cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego makes the state a hotspot for real estate activity, prompting many to consider a career in our dynamic field.

For foreigners, the path to becoming a real estate agent in California holds unique prospects and challenges. This article explores the feasibility of non-U.S. citizens' earning a real estate license in the Golden State. Specifically, I wanted to delve into what it takes to meet the requirements set forth by the Department of Real Estate in California.

Whether you're looking to start a new career or expand your existing real estate portfolio internationally, understanding the licensing process is the first step toward success in California's lucrative market.

Understanding Real Estate Licensing in California

To work as a real estate agent in California, you must obtain a salesperson license through the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) after taking real estate courses through an approved real estate school like ADHI Schools. Here's an overview of the requirements and the general steps you'll need to take:

Basic Requirements

  • Age: Be at least 18 years of age.

  • Background: Clear a background check While past convictions may not automatically disqualify you, they must be disclosed to the DRE for review.
  • Education: Complete 135 hours of approved pre-licensing education. This includes three core courses:
    • Real Estate Principles

    • Real Estate Practice

    • An elective course

    • Language Considerations: While some online courses might be offered in languages other than English, confirm this with the school before enrolling. However, note that the California real estate exam is only administered in English.

Steps to Obtain Your License

  1. Complete Pre-Licensing Courses: Enroll in the required coursework at an approved real estate school like ADHI Schools.
  2. Pass the California Real Estate Exam: Successfully pass the state licensing exam administered by the DRE.
  3. Apply for the License: Submit a formal application to the DRE, including fingerprinting and background check information.
  4. Secure a Sponsoring Broker: In California, you must work under the supervision of a licensed broker in order to practice real estate legally.

Eligibility Criteria for Foreigners

Residency Requirements

Contrary to what many might assume, California does not require real estate agents to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. However, all applicants must be legally authorized to work in the United States and clear criminal background.

Social Security Number or ITIN Requirements

To apply for a real estate license in California, every candidate must provide a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). For those who do not have an SSN, obtaining an ITIN is a crucial step. The ITIN serves as a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, an SSN.

Specific Conditions or Exceptions for Non-US Citizens

Foreign nationals must be particularly diligent in complying with all regulatory requirements. This includes the employment mentioned above, tax identification prerequisites, and completing the exact educational and examination requirements as U.S. citizens. It's important to note that certain visas may restrict the ability to conduct business, so consulting with an immigration lawyer can provide personalized guidance.

Challenges and Considerations for Foreigners


While the California real estate market presents exciting opportunities, foreigners seeking to become licensed agents may face some specific challenges:

  • Language Barriers: Fluency in English is essential for understanding contracts, communicating with clients, and navigating legal terminology. A solid conversational level might need to improve when dealing with complex real estate documents.
  • Legal Hurdles: Visa requirements, work permits, and tax implications for non-U.S. residents can add complexity. Consulting with an immigration attorney or a tax professional specializing in international clients is advisable.
  • Cultural Differences: Understanding local real estate practices, negotiating styles, and client expectations within the California market can take time and experience.

Tips for Overcoming Challenges

  • Improve English Proficiency: If English isn't your first language, invest in language courses or tutors focusing on business and real estate terminology.
  • Seek Legal Guidance: Consult professionals to ensure you understand all the legal requirements and restrictions regarding your specific visa or residency status.
  • Build a Network: Connect with other foreign-born real estate agents or join professional associations catering to diverse communities. Their experience and mentorship can be invaluable.
  • Leverage Your Background: Your language skills and cultural understanding may be significant in serving specific clientele, especially in California's diverse real estate landscape.
  • Patience and Persistence: Adapting to a new market and overcoming challenges takes time. Stay focused on your goals and be willing to learn and adapt.

Resources and Support

Navigating the path to becoming a real estate agent in California can feel less daunting when you have the right resources and a supportive network. Here are some places foreigners can look for help:

  • California Department of Real Estate (DRE): The DRE website is your primary source for official information, licensing requirements, and approved education providers.
  • Real Estate Schools: Many real estate schools cater to diverse populations and may offer language support or additional resources for international students.
  • Multicultural Real Estate Associations: Organizations like the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) or the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) have local chapters that can provide mentorship and networking opportunities.
  • Online Forums and Communities: Join online groups or forums dedicated to real estate professionals in California. Seek out those who welcome and support international members.

Remember, you are not alone! Others have successfully achieved their real estate goals in California despite coming from abroad. Proactively seeking out these resources will make your journey smoother.

Entering the California real estate market presents a significant opportunity for growth and success, particularly given the state's dynamic and diverse property landscape. However, foreigners wishing to participate in this vibrant market must navigate challenges and requirements unique to their status.

Despite these hurdles, California's real estate market opportunities are substantial. The state's economy is one of the largest and most diverse in the world, encompassing booming tech sectors, luxurious residential communities, and expansive agricultural lands. This diversity offers a wide range of niches and specializations for real estate professionals.

To those considering this journey, it is essential to approach it with determination and motivation. The process may seem daunting, but the rewards can be equally significant. By meeting the standards the California Department of Real Estate set forth, you demonstrate your commitment and professionalism, which are highly valued qualities in our competitive market.



Kartik Subramaniam

Founder, Adhi Schools

Kartik Subramaniam is the Founder and CEO of ADHI Real Estate Schools, a leader in real estate education throughout California. Holding a degree from Cal Poly University, Subramaniam brings a wealth of experience in real estate sales, property management, and investment transactions. He is the author of nine books on real estate and countless real estate articles. With a track record of successfully completing hundreds of real estate transactions, he has equipped countless professionals to thrive in the industry.

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