50-State Financial Services Licensing Compliance Guide
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Lender Licensing

Lending is highly regulated across the United States. If you are looking to pursue a money lending business or expand your current business into new states, you need to be aware of your obligations.

What Is a Money Lender?

Money lenders are individuals or companies that provide funding to single borrowers, investors, and business owners. Some work for the public government, while others work for financial institutions or as private lenders. The most common types of lenders include the following:

  • Loan Officer. Loan officers assess and authorize loans and repayment plans. Working most often in banks or for lending companies, they collect information on clients’ financial history and determine if lending to them is a good fit.
  • Mortgage Lender. Mortgage lenders evaluate home loan proposals and determine if the potential buyer is eligible for a loan. Mortgage lenders often work with larger financial institutions and fully pay the seller of a given property. Their client then makes monthly mortgage payments to the lender.
  • Private Lender. Private lenders loan money to individual borrowers looking to invest in real estate, business ventures, and microloans. Lending happens through online lending services and clubs that invest in loans with a certain level of set risk criteria.
  • Small Business Administration Lender. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides financial support for business expenses like equipment, leases, and renovations to start or expand small businesses in the United States.

Regardless of the type of lender a person becomes, some responsibilities spill into all lending areas. Those responsibilities include:

  • Gathering data on a potential client
  • Analyzing the risk of lending
  • Discussing loan options and goals
  • Determining an appropriate loan amount
  • Explaining the terms of the loan and repayment
  • Maintaining records
  • Updating loan payment profess reports

Because of state and federal lending regulations, the process of becoming a licensed lender involves multiple steps. Elements of starting or expanding a lender business include education, business registration, licensing, and renewal.

How to Become a Licensed Lender

To start, you will need to focus on your education and learning about the finance industry, as well as running a business. Once you have the required education, you can apply for your lender license and register your business.


Individuals looking to become licensed lenders should obtain a bachelor’s degree in business or accounting. Either field will provide background knowledge on loaning and financial business operations. While there are instances where employers may not require a degree, most lenders have at least a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field.

License Application

To become a mortgage lender, you must obtain a Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) license. If you are looking to become a private lender or SBA lender, you may not process loans, but lenders that handle mortgage loans must be licensed. Licensure requires a pre-licensure program consisting of a 20-hour course that reviews loan ethics, mortgage laws, and regulations. An examination follows the course.

Business Registration

Once you have passed the required coursework and have your lender license, you need to register your business. Requirements vary from state to state, but you will likely need to choose a business name and location, secure an employment identification number (EIN), and choose a business structure. You will also need to appoint a registered agent to receive lawsuit notices and other legal or government notices. Then, you can register your business through your state’s licensing authority.

If you are concerned about managing the business registration process on your own, you can seek guidance from the business licensing experts at Harbor Compliance. With our professional licensing services, we explain all of the stages of corporate compliance and provide access to full-service support and expert software insights.

We make preparing and filing applications easy and handle communication with government agencies on your behalf. With our software, you can track your registration status, license numbers, filing history, fees, and renewals 24/7.

Maintenance and Renewal

You will need to ensure you maintain the license’s status. State requirements vary, but renewals are often required on an annual basis. You may need to submit a renewal application, pay a renewal fee, or pursue continuing education. Complying with renewal requirements will ensure you can continue to operate your business without disruption.

Keeping on track with your business’s license renewals can be complicated, especially as a growing company. At Harbor Compliance, our License Manager software ensures accurate due date tracking and on-time filing. This way, your business will continue to be compliant with state and local requirements, and you will have the time you need to continue working and expanding your clientele.

If you are currently operating a lending company and are looking to outsource your maintenance and renewal duties, Harbor Compliance can help. We are available to review your business status, ensure you are in good standing in the state where you operate, and explain what steps you need to take in order to ensure you remain compliant with state and federal regulations.

Explore Licensing by State

Click on a link below to view licensing information in your state.

Meeting the lender licensing requirements is not always an easy process. Fortunately, Harbor Compliance’s License Manager helps finance professionals maintain their licenses by automating repetitive tasks such as tracking renewals and compliance deadlines. Through License Manager, you can also access Compliance Core™– our extensive, proprietary database of nationwide licensing requirements – to research the requirements for the states in which you work. Contact our licensing experts today to learn more.