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What Is The NMLS – Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry

NMLS History & Background

I remember landing my first mortgage job as a Mortgage Customer Service Representative for a large bank in Buffalo, New York. The year was 1996 and, even though I had no previous mortgage or banking experience, the bank liked me and offered me the position. Admittedly, I was quite excited. I had just left the Emergency Medical Services for something different and this bank was going to teach me everything that I needed to know to become a steely-eyed mortgage star. Or so I thought.

I arrived for work on my first day expecting to be ushered into a formal training program through which I would be taught all that I needed to know. Much to my surprise, however, my entire training experience consisted of listening to a customer service representative answer customer calls for three days after which I was live talking to customers. Quite a surprise and even more of a shock. But that was the mortgage industry back then. Rules and regulations were sporadically enforced, rarely taught, and most mortgage training consisted of a “hands-on”, “learn-as-you-go” experience. And we all know where that eventually led us.

As a 2008 response to the mortgage industry crisis plaguing the country, and, to some extent, the world, the United States Congress enacted the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) as a means of healing the economy and bringing accountability to an industry that, up until then, had little-to-none. Title Five of HERA established the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act).

The SAFE Act finally injected accountability into a previously-chaotic industry where mortgage professionals were concerned more about getting paid than looking out for their customers’ best interests. Through the SAFE Act, authority was issued to a centralized, national oversight system responsible for the licensing of non-depository mortgage loan originators, lenders, and brokers. This oversight system, known as the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS), was created through collaboration between the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators (AARMR). The NMLS commenced operations on January 1, 2008 and is owned and operated by the State Regulatory Registry (SRR), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CSBS.

The NMLS is the sole system that oversees mortgage professional registration and licensing for every state and U.S. possession. The NMLS oversees registration for any individual seeking to originate mortgages securing properties located in any U.S. state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam and also oversees licensing for non-depository professionals in those jurisdictions. In addition to mortgage loan originators, the NMLS oversees the licensing of mortgage lenders, brokerages, money service businesses, debt management companies including debt collectors, and consumer finance entities.For the purposes of this article, however, I will focus solely on individual mortgage loan originators.

To effectuate NMLS policies, the SRR Board of Managers formalized the NMLS Policy Committee, comprised of 11 state financial service regulators. All administrative decisions are made after considering input from participating state agencies, licensees, and the industry overall. The NMLS Policy Committee addresses the following types of issues:

• Regulatory policies that govern the NMLS
• NMLS development decisions
• Prioritization of NMLS functionality
• NMLS public comments
• Suppression requests concerning NMLS consumer access

Although individuals and entities seeking licensure ultimately do so through each individual state or possession from which they desire to secure a license, doing so is conducted solely through the NMLS system. Individual state licensing requirements may be found at:


In addition to facilitating the licensing of the aforementioned professionals and organizations, the NMLS is also responsible for documenting, retaining records of, and reporting licensing status conditions of the individuals and entities that it oversees to the public. Through the NMLS’ Consumer Access Portal, located at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org, any member of the public can ascertain the registration status, licensing status, and/or disciplinary records of any registered or licensed mortgage industry participant.

Individual, Depository Institution

Anyone desiring to originate mortgage loans securing properties located throughout the United States, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, at the very least, must be registered through the NMLS system and possess an NMLS number also referred to as a “unique identifier.”An individual working for an exempt entity is not required to secure a mortgage loan originator license. Depository institutions are exempt entities.

Individual, Non-Depository Institution

If an individual desires to originate mortgage loans for a non-depository mortgage lender or broker, in addition to registering through the NMLS and securing their unique identifier, he must also secure a license through each state or possession in which he desires to operate. Although the NML centralizes the process of applying for one’s mortgage loan originator license, the licenses themselves are issued by each state or territory in accordance with its individual licensing parameters and criteria.

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[1] Website, 2018, NMLS Resource Center, About NMLS, System Governance https://mortgage.nationwidelicensingsystem.org/about/Pages/default.aspx