No. of Recommendations: 1
I moved (with familly) from the UK to California in 1997.

  We went through exactly what you're going through but in the end
  had no problem getting a mortgage in 1999 to buy a house.

  Although it really pains me to say it i think 'Providian' was a help
  for us, i choked pretty hard at the concept of paying somebody to
  issue a card but i believe that helped kick-start our credit history.

  There was obviously some magical event because i/we suddenly started
  receiving credit-card 'offers', now whilst most of these represented
  nothing more than a means to start our living-room fire it does
  indicate that you're now 'credit worthy'.

  General advise..

    - Run a couple of cards (but don't go mad).
    - A store card (Target/BestBuy/Sears) might be usefull.
    - Try sweet-talking your bank for a card.
    - Last resort, go for a 'secured' card and then try and
      unsecure it as soon as possible.
    - Car dealers will bend over backwards to try and get you a
      loan - If it's a nasty rate you can always re-fi it later.

Good Luck.

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