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NMLS-Approved Loan Originator: Licensing

Frequently Asked Questions

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Loan Originator Licensing FAQs
General    (click an item to see more info)
  1. Is Real Estate Institute an NMLS-approved provider?

    Yes. The Real Estate Institute is an NMLS-Approved Course Provider, #1400102 We offer NMLS-approved pre-license and continuing education programs. We also offer SAFE test preparation courses to prepare loan originators for the mandatory national licensing test.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  2. What is the SAFE Act?

    The Secure and Fair Enforcement in Mortgage Licensing Act was signed into law on June 30, 2008 as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA). The intent of the SAFE Act is to increase uniformity in licensing requirements, reduce regulatory burden, enhance consumer protection, and reduce fraud in the mortgage industry.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  3. What is the NMLS?

    The Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) was created to form a central repository of license and disciplinary information on mortgage companies and mortgage loan originators. The SAFE Act requires all state-licensed companies and individual mortgage loan originators working for them to have an account and unique identifier number with NMLS.

    Last Updated: 5/23/2014
  4. To whom does the SAFE Act apply?

    The SAFE Act applies to all companies and mortgage loan originators. However, only those companies that are state-licensed and the individuals originating for them must go through the licensing process.

    Last Updated: 5/23/2014
  5. Under the SAFE Act, exactly who is considered to be a "Mortgage loan originator"?
    The SAFE Act, as implemented by rule, defines an "individual loan originator" as an individual who, for compensation or other monetary gain, performs loan origination activities, such as
    • Taking an application.
    • Arranging a credit transaction.
    • Assisting a consumer in applying for credit. A loan originator assists a consumer in obtaining or applying for credit by advising on particular credit terms that are or may be available to the consumer based on the consumer's financial characteristics.
    • Offering or negotiating credit terms. Credit terms include rates, fees and other costs. Credit terms are selected based on the consumer's financial characteristics when those terms are selected based on any factors that may influence a credit decision, such as debts, income, assets or credit history.
    • Making an extension of credit.
    • Referring a consumer to a loan originator or creditor. Referring is an activity included under each of the activities of offering, arranging, or assisting a consumer in obtaining or applying to obtain an extension of credit.
    • Advertising or communicating to the public that you can or will perform any loan origination services.
    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has further clarified that an individual cannot avoid licensure requirements by having someone else "take" the application. CFPB also clarified the limited contexts where offering or negotiating residential mortgage loan terms would not make an individual a mortgage loan originator:
    • Performing only administrative or clerical tasks on behalf of a loan originator or creditor, such as processing or underwriting, provided you perform those services for only one organization at a time.
    • Delivering an application to the consumer for them to fill out and not discussing terms, etc.
    • Providing financing to a buyer pursuant to a sale of your own residence.
    • Performing only real estate brokerage services as a licensed real estate professional as long as you are not being compensated by a lender for offering products or referrals.
    • Providing third-party advisory services, such as an attorney, accountant, financial advisor or someone assisting an immediate family member, as long as you are not being compensated for the actual loan origination service or for referring clients to a specific creditor or broker.
    • Other assorted situations, such as employees of manufactured home builders in certain cases.
    Last Updated: 1/19/2014
  6. Does this law affect mortgage loan originators in all states?

    Yes. This law applies to all states, territories, and possessions of the United States.

    Last Updated: 11/10/2011
  7. Are there any mortgage loan originators who are NOT required to become licensed?

    Yes. Mortgage loan originators who are employees of a depository institution (a bank that takes deposits) regulated by the FDIC, OCC, Federal Reserve, CFPB, NCUA or Farm Credit Administration are exempt from the state licensure, and testing requirements. However, they must become registered MLOs through NMLS and receive education commensurate with their involvement in loan origination. Although not specifically required to take NMLS-approved courses, those can certainly satisfy the requirements of the Act.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  8. What is the difference between NMLS registration and licensing?

    All mortgage loan originators must have an account with the NMLS. This creates a centralized national database of disciplinary information for individuals originating residential loans. Registration is the only SAFE Act requirement for mortgage loan originators who are employees of a federally-regulated depository institution or its first-tier subsidiary (as described above).

    For all other mortgage loan originators, including those working for Mortgage Brokers and Mortgage Lenders, the SAFE Act requires state licensure for each state where the individual originates loans. The licensure process will be facilitated through the NMLS and its systems. State-licensed mortgage loan originators are subject to the education and testing requirements of the SAFE Act.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  9. How do I obtain an NMLS unique identifier?

    Detailed instructions are provided at the NMLS Website. It is important that you coordinate your use of this system with your employer.

    Last Updated: 5/23/2014
  10. Is NMLS registration also required for Mortgage Brokers and Lenders (companies)?

    Yes, in addition to individual mortgage loan originators, a mortgage brokerage or mortgage lending company will create a record in the NMLS system. Using this "One Record Concept", NMLS allows for the creation and maintenance of a single record for each company, regardless of the number of jurisdictions in which it is licensed.

    This single record may be used to apply for, maintain, renew, or surrender licenses in all jurisdictions participating in NMLS. Companies will also be able to create and maintain a single record for each branch, control person or mortgage loan originator.

    The use of any of these forms is governed by the regulations of the state in which you are seeking licensure, not by NMLS.

    Additional information is available at the NMLS Website.

    Last Updated: 1/19/2014
  11. Will states issue a Mortgage loan originator license once I'm registered with the NMLS?

    While the states are the entities that issue mortgage loan originator licenses, you won’t be able to apply for your license in a given state until you’ve satisfied all of its requirements for licensure (education, testing, background checks, etc.)

    Last Updated: 5/23/2014
  12. After becoming registered with the NMLS, what steps are required to become licensed in an individual state?

    Requirements for individual state licensure are dictated by each state's mortgage licensing law. However, certain requirements exist for all states, and the licensing process will be standardized and facilitated through the NMLS.

    Requirements include:

    • Background checks
    • Testing
    • Pre-license education
    • Continuing education

    Please check the NMLS website for updated information about individual state requirements.

    Last Updated: 11/10/2011
  13. Where can I find additional information about NMLS licensing procedures for a specific state?

    Please see this document at the NMLS website.

    Last Updated: 1/19/2014
Background Check Requirement    (click an item to see more info)
  1. What types of background checks are required?

    Individuals must undergo a criminal background check as well as a character and fitness check, which includes a credit check.

    Last Updated: 5/23/2014
  2. When must I submit to the required background checks?

    Before applying for state licensure.

    Last Updated: 4/25/2010
  3. How do I submit to the background checks? Who do I contact?

    You will find this information at the NMLS Website.

    Last Updated: 5/25/2012
Testing & Education Requirements    (click an item to see more info)
  1. In brief, what are the NMLS education and testing requirements?

    Applicants are required to:

    • Complete 20 hours of pre-license course education (may be more in some states).
    • Pass a standardized national examination, including uniform state content.
    • Pass a standardized state examination (in a limited number of states that have not adopted the uniform state content in the national examination).
    • Complete at least 8 hours of continuing education course curriculum each year (may be more in some states).

    You can see which states have adopted the uniform state content (and do not require a separate state test) by clicking here.

    You can find out more about the education requirements in each state by clicking here.

    Last Updated: 5/23/2014
  2. If I work for a commercial bank do I need to take the education courses or examinations required by the SAFE Act?

    If you work for an insured depository institution regulated by OCC, FDIC, FED and NCUA or the Farm Credit Administration you are not required to take the NMLS Approved pre-license or continuing education courses or examinations.

    You still must receive education commensurate with your origination involvement and the relevant NMLS-approved pre-license and continuing education courses can satisfy this requirement. Additionally, it would be a good idea if you have ever considered changing employment and going to work for a state-licensed lender or broker.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
Additional Information    (click an item to see more info)
  1. Where can I find additional information about NMLS licensing procedures for a specific state?

    Please see this document at the NMLS website.

    Last Updated: 1/19/2014
  2. Where can I get more information about the NMLS?

    The NMLS website is a valuable resource: http://Mortgage.NationwideLicensingSystem.org

    Last Updated: 4/25/2010
  3. I have more questions. Who can I call?

    Our customer representatives at the Real Estate Institute are available to help.
    Please call us with your questions: (800) 995-1700.

    The NMLS Call Center is also available: (855) NMLS-123 (1-855-665-7123).

    Last Updated: 1/19/2014
Loan Originator SAFE Test Preparation FAQs
General    (click an item to see more info)
  1. What are the testing requirements to become a licensed mortgage loan originator?

    State-licensed mortgage loan originators must pass a written examination, including a national component test. A few sttes also require a seprate state-specific test.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  2. What types of questions are on the exams?

    All questions are multiple-choice.

    Last Updated: 4/27/2013
  3. How many questions are on the exams?

    The national component contains 125 questions. Of those, 115 are scored and 10 are excluded from your score because they are being evaluated for use in future exams.

    The number of questions varies for state components, but you should expect between 45 and 55 scored questions.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  4. What score is required to pass the exams?

    Each SAFE test requires a passing score of at least 75%.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  5. What is the UST?

    The UST (or "Uniform State Test") is included as a portion of your Natioanl SAFE exam. Loan originators who successfully pass this exam will have satisfied the testing requirements for licensure in most jurisdictions and will not have an additional state-specific exam for those regulatory bodies.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  6. Do all states allow licensees to take the UST instead of a state-specific exam?

    Most state licensing agencies have adopted the UST to satisfy their licensing requirements. In some jurisdictions, loan originators need to pass both a national component test and a state component test. If you have questions about whether a particular agency accepts the stand-alone UST as part of its licensing requirements, you can click here or contact the NMLS.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  7. What kinds of questions are included in the UST portion of the National exam?

    The UST contains multiple-choice questions. According to materials provided by the NMLS, the questions are based, in part, on information from the SAFE Act, “Regulation H”, as well as model state law put out by CSBS and AARMR that many states have adopted as a way to facilitate and strengthen their licensing process.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  8. What happens if I fail an exam?

    You are permitted to retake the exam, but there are mandatory waiting periods between each attempt.

    The following rules apply to both the national and state examinations:

    1. You are permitted to RE-take a test 2 consecutive times (for a total of three attempts) with each retake occurring at least 30 days after the preceding test.
    2. After failing 3 consecutive tests, you must wait at least 6 months before taking the test again.
    Last Updated: 4/27/2013
  9. What should I do today to prepare for and satisfy the testing requirements?

    You should begin studying to pass your examinations. We have created a PREP-to-PASS program that includes our comprehensive study guide and online practice tests. Click here for more information about our program.

    Last Updated: 4/27/2013
  10. What are the steps for creating a SAFE MLO test enrollment and scheduling a test?
    1. Step 1: Establish an Individual Account in NMLS

      Please visit the NMLS Resource Center for information on how to create an account. You can also reference the Create an Individual Account Quick Guide, which provides step-by-step instruction.

    2. Step 2: Create and Pay for a Test Enrollment Window

      After you have established an account on NMLS, you can create and pay for a test enrollment window. Please note: you can NOT schedule a test appointment without creating and paying for a test enrollment first.

      For information on how to enroll for a test, please refer to the Test Enrollment Quick Guide for MLOs on the NMLS Resource Center.

    3. Step 3: Schedule a Test Appointment

      Once you have created a test enrollment, you are now ready to schedule your test appointment. Exams are administered by Prometric. Locations are available throughout the country. More information is available at the NMLS website.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  11. I plan to take the national and state components. Can I take both tests on the same day?

    Yes, you can schedule both tests for the same day. However, you must register and pay for the exams separately. If scheduling for the same day, be sure to allow enough time between scheduled tests so that you won't be rushed to complete the first test

    Last Updated: 4/27/2013
  12. Am I permitted or required to use a calculator on the test?

    You are permitted to use a basic calculator, which the testing center will provide for you. You will not be allowed to bring your own calculator (or any other device) into the exam. Although the test may include math questions, you will be provided enough information to solve the problem without the use of a financial calculator.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  13. How can the Real Estate Institute help me to prepare for the examinations?

    Real Estate Institute offers a test preparation program specifically designed to help mortgage loan originators prepare for the national component of the SAFE Test (with UST).

    Click here for more information about our programs.

    Last Updated: 5/13/2016
  14. Where can I find more information about the examinations?

    The online NMLS Resource Center provides detailed information about the tests including what will be covered on each test component, the number of questions, how each test is weighted and corresponding reference lists.

    Last Updated: 4/27/2013
Real Estate Institute is an NMLS-Approved Course Provider, #1400102.