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 Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQ is organized by the following categories:

Testing  |  Education  |  Background Check  |  Credit Report



See also the MLO Testing Handbook.

Q. How do I prepare and enroll to take the National Test?
  A. The MLO Testing Handbook, which is available on the Testing Page of the NMLS Resource Center, has specific information on how to enroll. When studying for the test, be sure to also review the Content Outline 
Q. What is the cost associated with taking the National Test?
  A. The fee associated with taking the test is posted on the Testing Page.
Q. Do I need to take a course prior to taking the test?
  A. No, you are not required to take a pre-licensure course prior to taking any the test. Regardless of whether you choose to complete a preparation course prior to taking the test, you are still required to complete at least 20 hours of pre-licensure education. Click here for the list of state-specific education requirements.
Q. Do I need to pass the National Test more than once if I would like to be licensed in more than one state? 

A. No, the National Test needs only to be passed once. Passing the National Test meets the state-specific test requirements for state agencies.

Q. For how long will my exam be valid?

A. Section 1505(d) of the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act states, "...[a] state licensed loan originator who fails to maintain a valid license for a period of 5 years or longer shall retake the test, not taking into account any time during which such individual is a registered loan originator."

Therefore, if mortgage loan originators leave the mortgage industry, or pass any component of the S.A.F.E. MLO Test but don't obtain a license or active federal registration, for a period of five consecutive years, their previously passed test results will expire and they will be required to retest to obtain licensure. For more information, please refer to the Test Expiration Policy document and FAQ on the NMLS Resource Center.

Q. If I work for a Commercial Bank do I need to take the National Test?
  A. If you work for an insured depository regulated by OCC, OTS, FDIC, FRB and NCUA or the Farm Credit Administration you are not required to take the National Test. As a registrant you are eligible to take the National Test.
Q. If I am a state-licensed MLO who wants to be licensed in one state but live in another, will I be able to take the state test at a local testing location? For example, if I want to be licensed in Arizona but live in Maryland, will I be able to take the Arizona test locally?
  A. Yes. The test is available at all test centers.
Q. What is the length of the test?​
  A. The length of time associated with the test is posted on the Testing Page
Q. If I have several mortgage loan originators who need to take the same test, can I schedule group testing appointments? 
  A. Yes, if five or more MLOs need to take the test, a company representative can use the bulk reservation tools to schedule a group testing appointment. Please visit the Prometric website for more information.
Q. I've selected and paid for an enrollment window, but the enrollment period does not start right away. Why? 
  A. Typically, the enrollment window begins with the current date. However, if a candidate has recently failed the test, the new enrollment window will start on the first date after the required waiting period. See the Testing Page for specifics on how to view a test enrollment window.
Q. What if I need to cancel or reschedule my testing appointment? 
  A. Test enrollment fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. You may cancel or reschedule a reservation by contacting the Prometric call center or online. You must cancel or reschedule your test no later than 12 p.m. local time (at the location where the exam is being taken) two business days prior to your scheduled appointment. Failure to follow the cancellation/reschedule policy or failure to show up for a scheduled test will result in the test enrollment window being closed, and loss of the enrollment fee. A candidate must request and pay for a new enrollment window prior to scheduling a new test appointment.
Q. What should I bring with me to the test center? 
  A. You must bring one form of a current (non-expired) government-issued identification that includes your photograph and signature.  Your name on your government issued ID needs to match exactly as it appears in your NMLS account.
Q. Can I bring a calculator and/or scratch paper into the test center?  
  A. The testing center will provide a basic four-function calculator and white board that will function as scratch paper. 
Q. Are we allowed to take restroom breaks during the test?  
  A. Yes, restroom breaks are permitted. However, the test clock will not stop while you are taking a break, and as a result, your test time will be shortened. Individuals are not, however, allowed to go anywhere other than the restroom on breaks.  Candidates are not allowed to access their lockers while on break.  For a full set of rules, see Rules of Conduct.
Q. What am I allowed to bring into the test center?  
  A. No personal items are permitted to be brought into the test center. This includes but is not limited to: cell phones, pagers, purses, wallets, coats, hats, etc. All of these items must be locked in a secure locker upon arrival. Also, no food or drink is permitted in the test center.
Q. How will the tests be scored?  

A. The test will be scored electronically. In most cases, once a candidate has finished taking the test, the candidate's score and test result (pass/fail designation) will appear on the screen. Before departing the test center, a printed score report will be presented to the candidate by the test center administrator. Approximately 72 hours after the test is completed, NMLS will post the official score and results to the Testing Information section under the Composite View of the NMLS record.

Q. What score do I need to get to pass the test?
  A. By law, all candidates seeking state-licensure, or currently holding a state license, are required to pass the SAFE MLO National Test with a score not less than 75%.
Q. Why are there un-scored questions on the test?  
  A. The ten pre-test (un-scored) questions appearing on the test do not affect the candidate’s score or the pass/fail result. These pre-test questions are being pilot tested for future use. Once these pre-test questions are adequately tested, these questions will be considered for use as scored test questions on future NMLS tests. The pre-test questions appear on the test in random order. The candidate will not know which questions are pre-test and which questions are scored.
Q. What is the National Test pass rate?
A. The pass rate for the National Test is published and frequently updated on the NMLS Resource Center.  See Test Performance Information.
Q. I have a disability and need a special accommodation for the test.  What do I need to do?
A. In compliance with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), reasonable testing accommodations with modifications and aids will be provided to candidates who satisfy the special accommodation criteria. Please visit our Special Accommodations Page for more information.
Q. What does it mean that my test has an Legislative Updates?

A. Legislative changes may occur throughout the test administration cycle. Candidates are responsible for keeping abreast of changes made to the applicable statutes, regulations, and rules regardless of whether they appear on the outline or the test.


Q. Who are the NMLS-approved education providers?
  A. A list of NMLS-approved course providers is posted on the Education Page.
Q. When do I need to complete my 20 hours of pre-licensure education?
  A. Many state agencies require 20 or more hours of NMLS approved pre-licensure education to be completed prior to submitting an application for a license.  Additionally, several agencies require a certain number of hours of state-specific education be completed.  Individuals are encouraged to review the State-Specific Education Chart prior to submitting an application to ensure all requirements have been met.  
Q. Do I have to take my pre-licensure or continuing education all at once?
  A. No, you may take multiple courses over a period of time to reach the 20 hour PE or 8 hour CE requirements. However, continuing education only counts for the year in which it is taken so do not plan to take a course in December and then another January since the course taken in January will not count towards meeting the previous year’s continuing education requirement.
Q. Can I take the same continuing education course two years in a row?
  A. No, the SAFE Act specifically prohibits the taking of the same course in successive years.
Q. If I work for a Commercial Bank do I need to take the SAFE-required education courses?
  A. If you work for an insured depository regulated by OCC, OTS, FDIC, FRB and NCUA or the Farm Credit Administration you are not required to take the SAFE-required pre or continuing education courses.  You still can and may want to take the relevant PE and CE courses to keep your knowledge of industry and regulatory information up-to-date in the event that you change employment and work for a state-licensed lender or broker.
Q. How do I find and register for NMLS-approved education courses?
  A. Individuals should work with your company to find out what course providers they may have a relationship with. Individuals can also refer to courses advertised via direct mail or online, making sure that they are NMLS-approved course providers, posted on the Education Page.

Background Check

Q.  What do I have to do to obtain a Criminal Background Check (CBC) through NMLS and/or where do I get started?
  A. If you are a MLO (MU4) or an individual reported on the MU2 (owner, executive officer, branch manager, or qualifying individual) then visit the Criminal Background Check Page for information and resources on how to submit a CBC in NMLS.
Q. I have already submitted fingerprints to my regulator(s), do I have to have a Criminal Background Check completed through NMLS?
 A. All loan originators and relevant MU2 individuals must submit fingerprints directly to NMLS using the NMLS authorized fingerprint vendor.  The NMLS FBI/Federal Criminal Background Check is separate from any state criminal background check requirement.

For MLOs (MU4) The submission of prints to NMLS is for SAFE Act compliance of a national Criminal Background Check. 

Q. I am an individual reported on the MU2 (owners, executive officers, branch managers, qualifying individuals), how do I determine which states/agencies require me to submit a criminal background check?
A. To determine the specific positions and licenses that are permitted and required to authorize a Criminal Background Check through NMLS, access the “MU2 NMLS CBC Requirements Chart” available on the NMLS Resource Center.
Q. Why do my fingerprints expire after three years?
A. The NMLS Criminal Background Check (CBC) program approved by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) includes that fingerprints used for CBC purposes not be older than three years from the date the individual was fingerprinted
Q.   Can I obtain a copy of my criminal background check through NMLS?
A. No. Criminal Background Check results are viewable to state regulators and depositories employing federally registered MLOs only.  If you wish to obtain your own criminal background check, you may do so by visiting the FBI website at:  https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks.
Q. I am an individual reported on the MU1/MU3 as an MU2 person that has already completed my criminal background check. Is there a fee for granting additional agencies access to my criminal background check after results have been returned?
A. Failing to grant access to all relevant agencies before your criminal background check results are returned requires you to authorize and pay for a new criminal background check.

Credit Report

Q. Am I required to authorize a credit report through NMLS?
A. Every state-licensed mortgage loan originator is required to complete the credit report authorization process through NMLS, even if credit information was previously received by their state regulator. Control Persons (MU2) for state-licensed companies may be required to complete a credit report through NMLS to satisfy state specific requirements. Federally registered MLOs are not required to authorize a credit report.
Q. Does NMLS require a minimum credit score to obtain a license?
  A. Only state regulators have access to review credit information, including credit scores, on licensees. Every jurisdiction maintains its own standards for licensure.
Q. What is the state looking for in my credit report and will my license be revoked if my credit isn’t good?
A. The SAFE Act requires that mortgage loan originator applicants have, “demonstrated financial responsibility, character, and general fitness such as to command the confidence of the community and to warrant a determination that applicants will operate honestly, fairly, and effectively.”

Each state regulator will independently review the credit information of MLOs licensed in their jurisdiction. There is no automated standard or minimum score that will be enforced inside NMLS. The SAFE Act leaves it to the discretion of each state regulator to develop their own processes and standards for reviewing credit information and determining the financial responsibility of their licensees.
Q. What type of credit report is obtained through NMLS?
A. The credit report obtained through NMLS is a Single Bureau TransUnion Credit Report with a Vantage Score
Q. When the NMLS pulls my credit, will it lower my credit score?
A. When the credit report is obtained, it will be done through a “soft pull” process which has no effect on the applicants credit score.
Q. How long is my credit report good for?
A. The same credit report can be used to satisfy the credit report requirement for both existing licenses and any additional licenses (through transition request or new application) for up to 30 days.
Q. What does TransUnion consider as foreign address?
A. Any address outside of the United States including the Virgin Island and Puerto Rico are considered foreign addresses by TransUnion.  An individual with a foreign address will see a system default address in place of the current residential address during the IDV process.
Q. Can I obtain a copy of my credit report?
A. State regulators are not permitted to provide a copy of a credit report to individuals directly.  You can obtain a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. 


What is a Thin File? What is a Fragmented/Orphan File?


A. “Thin File” is a consumer credit file that has little or no credit history. A Thin File can also be a “Fragmented/Orphan File.” Fragmented/Orphan files occur as a result of differences in how consumer indicative information is supplied by data furnishers. Because of these variations, TransUnion employs a combine process that confidently matches multiple files for a subject. Not all files can be confidently combined, which causes Fragmented/Orphan files.  Here are some situations that might cause a Fragmented/Orphan File to be returned:

 A reporting company enters different information than that which is currently on the consumer’s file:

a.      Different address – consumer moved but they still have companies reporting their previous address as current

b.      Different SSN – could be caused by data entry mistake

c.      Different name, i.e. John Patrick Jones, J Patrick Jones, John P Jones, J P Jones, John Jones

 If a regulator has placed a license item due to a Thin File; you can call TU Customer Support at 888.412.0863 if you need to be manually authenticated, or you can contact TU corporate at 800.916.8800 to dispute the Thin File.


How can I clear an erroneous OFAC related issue on my credit report?


A. An individual would need to contact TU Consumer Relations at 800.916.8800 and mention that they have an OFAC related issue that they want to clear. You will be transferred to the special handling department. Once in special handling, they will be able to confirm/clear the hit and can also initiate a dispute for the individual.


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