What is an NMLS Number? Let’s find out!

By Ciprian Morariu Published: March 15, 2024

What is an NMLS Number

Are you an aspiring homeowner ready to take the big plunge and get started with your mortgage loan application?

Buying a home is one of the most significant financial decisions of anyone’s life, especially if it is the first time you are buying one. 

Paying for a massive investment requires prudent planning and this is where mortgage loan options come into consideration. 

Choosing the right loan is critical to ensure that your largest financial transaction goes out smoothly and securely. To achieve this, home buyers and borrowers must find the right lender to protect their interests. 

But how can you ensure that you are working with a skilled, professional, and trustworthy mortgage lender or loan provider? 

To safeguard the best interests of homeowners and establish more transparency, the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) was established. 

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or someone who is planning to obtain a mortgage loan in the future, learning about NMLS can save you unexpected losses and protect you from predatory lending practices. 

What is the National Mortgage Licensing Number NMLS 

Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) has been established by the state and regulatory forces to officially track the licensing system practiced by lenders and financial institutions. It is a centralized database where all data pertaining to mortgage loan providers and originators are maintained. 

It is owned by the State Regulatory Registry LLC which maintains and updates the online database. This database is accessible to the public and allows people to look up details about the lender they are working with. 

NMLS was created as a response to the infamous 2007 real estate and housing crisis. 

NMLS helps state and federal agencies, mortgage companies and consumers track and identify the qualifications and history of any lender or loan provider. 

The objective of NMLS is to establish a greater degree of ethics and fair practices while upholding the highest standards of professional integrity and trustworthiness. 

With an NMLS ID number lookup, anyone can uncover essential details about mortgage officers and financial institutions.

But before we go any further with NMLS, a quick look at what it takes to get a mortgage loan originator license

The key points of becoming an MLO are to go through the pre-licensing mortgage licensing course and pass the licensing test. Most aspiring MLOs prefer to go through the MLO course online as it offers the flexibility to be studied on the go. You will be listed on the NMLS after you acquire a mortgage loan originator license.       

Purpose and Importance of NMLS Numbers

The key purpose of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) is to promote trust, transparency, and accountability within the financial lending industry. 

With this standardized system, both regulatory agencies and consumers can easily track the authenticity and compliance of any financial institution such as a mortgage company or loan provider. 

The objective of NMLS is to establish a greater degree of ethics and fair practices while upholding the highest standards of professional integrity and trustworthiness.

Wondering what is an NMLS number and how is it relevant?

An NMLS number is a unique identifier that is allocated to every active licensed professional in the mortgage lending industry, including companies, credit unions, loan originators, and other financial institutions. 

NMLS helps state and federal agencies, mortgage companies and consumers track and identify the qualifications and history of any lender or loan provider. 

With an NMLS number or NMLS ID, anyone can easily find specific details about any entity or individual who is involved at any step of the financing and mortgage loan process.

NMLS numbers are mandatory and must be obtained by individuals who are classifying themselves as an employee or owner of any federally regulated financial institution. 

Who is Required to Have an NMLS Number?

Individuals and Entities Subject to NMLS Registration

You might have already figured out the importance of NMLS. But have you wondered who is required to have an NMLS number?

Any individual or entity regulated by the federal government is required by state and federal law to obtain a Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS). 

This means that any bank, credit union, broker, lender, private lending company, financial institution, loan originator, or mortgage officer must register and update their information in the NMLS database to obtain a license. 

Without a license, state and federal agencies can cancel or revoke the permission to provide any kind of financial products and services. 

Regulated Professions Requiring NMLS Number

As per the state and federal rules under the SAFE Act, many individual roles, professions, and entities are required to register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS).

  • Mortgage brokers: as intermediaries between financial institutions, lenders, and borrowers, mortgage brokers help home buyers procure mortgage loans. Mortgage brokers provide various options and choices of lenders with different payment plans. 
  • Mortgage lenders: they act as a source of loans and provide financing to borrowers directly. They are licensed to provide financial services to consumers.
  • Mortgage officers: they work on behalf of borrowers to help them move through the different stages of obtaining a mortgage loan. They help borrowers complete and submit loan applications, gather the required documents, and communicate important updates. 
  • Mortgage companies: are business entities that participate in financial lending directly or indirectly. Mortgage companies are licensed to provide mortgage loans and many other products and services. These include banks, credit unions, and trusts among others. 

Note that in addition to the above, local state laws might also require certain professions to register with the NMLS. For example - in some states, underwriters are also required to have an NMLS ID.

Exceptions and Exemptions

Having an NMLS ID is essential if you want to avoid getting fined or legally scrutinized by the state and federal government. 

There are serious consequences for rule-breakers in the mortgage and financing industry. Some of these include - getting your license revoked, civil charges, criminal cases, and cease orders. 

As a bottom line, if you are a real estate professional, a lender, a financial institution, or an individual who is directly or indirectly involved in the mortgage loan process, then you must comply with the NMLS guidelines.  

What Is The Process To Get An NMLS Number?

Step-by-Step Process for Obtaining an NMLS Number

If you are working as a mortgage loan officer you should necessarily obtain an NMLS number.  

Wondering how to get an NMLS number quickly without having to go through complex steps and actions? Let’s find out the key steps involved in the process. 

Note that the steps required to obtain your unique NMLS identification number might vary from state to state but you can look at the steps listed below as the standard process. 

Prerequisites and Requirements for NMLS Registration

The first step in obtaining your NMLS number is to register yourself on the official website of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS). 

This is an easy process that just takes a few minutes to complete. Simply visit the NMLS website, upload all the details required, and click on a button to register. 

Training and Education

Becoming an official member of the NMLS and getting your unique ID also requires the completion of pre-licensing education. 

As per NMLS, you must complete 20 hours of mandatory coursework as established by your state’s Department of Real Estate. This must be completed from a NMLS approved school or course provider. 

Note that different states might have their own set of state-specific education requirements to be fulfilled. 

Once you complete the training, you must also take and clear the NMLS licensing exam, also known as the SAFE MLO exam. You must score at least 75% as the minimum score to pass the exam. 

Application and Background Check

After passing the NMLS licensing exam, you should prepare and submit your application.

Along with your application, you will also need to submit electronic fingerprints and other background verification documents. 

Note that you will have to pay a one-time fee for processing your application. 

NMLS ID Number Issuance

After you have completed all the steps listed above, you will receive your NMLS identification number in your mail. 

This means you will be officially registered with the NMLS database and licensed to partake in the mortgage and financing industry. 

You can now work as a mortgage professional, entity, or organization. 

NMLS ID Number Lookup

Purpose and Uses of NMLS ID Number Lookup

The NMLS identification number is provided both to banks and lending institutions as well as mortgage loan officers and providers.  

NMLS benefits homebuyers and borrowers in a simple but important way - it allows them to check up on a particular lender, financial loan provider, or mortgage loan officer. 

This way, consumers can find out if a particular person or entity has any history of dishonesty or malpractice. 

NMLS ID number lookup protects the rights and interests of consumers from fraudulent mortgage loan providers, and officers. 

Since only deserving professionals and entities are allowed to register with the NMLS database, it means that every registered member of the database meets the following qualification criteria: 

  • Maintain their license by ensuring completion of the renewal requirements
  • Do not have any felony or conviction in the last seven years
  • Do not have any record of committing financial fraud or crime
  • Is financially responsible and aware of the industry rules and regulations

Consumers can easily access the NMLS database to ensure whether a mortgage loan provider or originator is licensed to help them secure the most suitable mortgage option.

NMLS consumer access is a benefit for consumers using which they can find out if a lender or a loan officer is licensed and in good standing with the law. 

Predatory lending persists, despite the efforts of NMLS for protecting consumer rights and interests. 

Online Platforms for NMLS ID Number Lookup

With the help of online platforms, consumers can easily use the NMLS ID to look up details about any mortgage professional or lender. 

By doing so, consumers can rest assured that they are working with experienced, trustworthy, and professional people for their mortgage loans. 

NMLS checks can reveal any potential red flags or issues associated and help consumers make an informed decision. 

Here are a few details you can find using the NMLS number: 

  • Employment details
  • Work experience
  • License status
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Criminal background check 

Steps to Perform an NMLS ID Number Lookup

Want to look up details about a loan officer or loan originator? You can simply perform a check using the NMLS ID number. 

Simply visit the website of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) and run a search using the unique identifying number. 

Once you run a look-up, you will find the relevant results and information related to the person or the entity you want to know more about.