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Question: I won a green card and will be arriving in New York soon with my pregnant wife and our daughter. We want to find an apartment in Bay Ridge or any good neighborhood. We can pay just $1,800 a month. Can you help?

— Belarus, But Brooklyn-Bound

Dear Belarus:

As we say in New York: Mazel tov!

And welcome.

It’s really beyond the scope of this column to help individuals find places to live, but the day I checked, there were 39 two-bedroom apartments in Bay Ridge for rent under $2,000 a month. That’s not a lot to choose from, unfortunately. Some other, similar Brooklyn neighborhoods include Sunset Park and Carroll Gardens.  Here are listings up to $1,800 in Sunset Park and listings for your price point in Carroll Gardens. And here’s a great map showing the immigrant and ethnic populations of the city. Good luck.

Geography aside, there are some significant obstacles to renting in New York, probably the most immigrant-friendly place in the U.S. Most of the issues you will face will have to do with your employment and credit history, which in your case are essentially zero.

Whether you work with a real estate agent or go looking on your own, you will need to put together a personal information packet that you can share with prospective landlords. Make copies that you can leave with your rental applications. It should include evidence of:

  • Employment. If you have a job already or a job offer, ask your employer to write a “to whom it may concern” letter outlining the basics of your employment situation, including your salary and when you were hired or when you will start.
  • Financial responsibility. If you have been working for a while, include copies of two pay stubs, showing your income. If you haven’t started working, you’ll need a bank statement or letter showing what funds you have. (Note: Many landlords require income equal to 40 times the monthly rent. In your case, then, you may need to show income or cash of as much as $72,000.)
  • Good character. If you have friends or family in New York already, ask a couple of people to write you personal reference letters. If you don’t know anyone in town, ask someone in your home country to vouch for you, a clergyman or even a former landlord. The letters should be in English.

Finally, the most important thing you need to know is that housing discrimination based on your immigrant status is illegal. If you feel that a landlord is refusing to rent to you because you are an immigrant or a real estate agent is steering you to particular neighborhoods because of your ethnicity, you can make a complaint to the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.