It can be hard to get a mortgage if you work as a seafarer. Even if your income is high enough and you have a good deposit saved up, some lenders might be unable or unwilling to lend to a seafarer due to your tax status and residence. Since seafarers are away from the UK for more than half the year, they could get paid by companies in other countries, including being paid in different currencies. If you're struggling to navigate the requirements for a seafarer mortgage, we can help as an independent mortgage broker with years of experience.

In this guide, we'll look at what makes it hard for seafarers to get mortgages, as well as what you can do to ensure you get a mortgage that suits your needs.

Can You Get a Mortgage as a Seafarer?

Yes, seafarers can get mortgages. Many mortgage lenders are willing to consider applications from seafarers, but there are additional checks and extra steps compared to someone who’s in the UK full time.

Who Classifies as a Seafarer?

There are many different professions that classify as a seafarer for mortgage purposes. Professions considered as a seafarer for mortgage purposes include anyone who works on a transport or commercial vessel. This could be working as an officer or captain, working in hospitality and entertainment on cruises, or any other similar job.

What Is a Seafarer Mortgage and Why Is It Different?

Seafarers are considered a higher risk to lenders and therefore they have a specific seafarer mortgage. This is partially because it is harder to confirm the tax status and income of someone working as a seafarer. There’s also the concern that people who work abroad or at sea could default on their mortgage payments and are harder to contact. This means that the interest on seafarer mortgages can often be higher than standard residential mortgages for people who are in the UK all the time.

Residential Mortgages for Seafarers

Most lenders will consider mortgage applications from seafarers who want to buy a residential property. Requirements could include a higher deposit requirement and higher interest rates.

If you’re considering a second or holiday home mortgage, this might be harder to get. Second homes are already classed as higher risk because if you face financial difficulties, evidence shows you’re more likely to default on payments for your second home rather than your primary residence.

You could also face additional difficulties in other cases where the risk is higher, but a broker can help make sure that you have a larger range of mortgage options available to you.

Buy-to-Let Seafarer Mortgages

Getting a buy-to-let mortgage is possible, whether you want to have a long-term rental opportunity, or a holiday let. As a seafarer, you might have to provide a significantly higher deposit — usually around 25% as a minimum.

Buy-to-let mortgages are considered higher risk than residential mortgages, especially if you’re not going to be in the country to manage your property for long periods at a time. This can make the property less appealing to renters if issues aren’t handled quickly. You can mitigate this by finding a professional rental management company to handle your rental property for you, but the mortgage lender might want to see adequate proof of this.

Alternatively, you might be able to show proof that you’ve been managing other rental properties without issue for a number of years. The concerns over the management of rental properties will be higher for houses in multiple occupancy, such as student housing, holiday lets and Airbnb properties. Consider any tax implications of rental income alongside your seafaring income and tax allowance.

How Are Seafarer Income and Affordability Calculated?

Incomes for seafarers can be hard to navigate due to the nature of work and the fact that many seafarers work for foreign companies or get paid in foreign currencies. Getting all your income and tax evidence together is a vital bit of preparation before applying for a mortgage.


Your income will usually be subject to the same checks as for any other type of mortgage. A lender will want to see that your income is sufficiently higher than your outgoing expenses. This is called an affordability check. It can be tricky for seafarers to prove, as income can vary throughout the year. Expect to provide at least two years' proof of income to a mortgage lender as part of the affordability checks. Your accounts may also need to come through a registered accountant or from HMRC, to ensure your accounts are accurate. You’ll also need proof of your outgoings, such as other loans, regular payments, and expenses.

Gross or Net Income

As a seafarer, some of your income might be exempt from tax if you’re paid in a foreign currency, meaning you live off the gross income and can use this as your income amount for a mortgage application. However, you might need the net income of any amounts you get paid in GBP or some other currencies.

Some mortgage lenders might want to see your net income whatever currency you get paid in. Find out what type of income records a mortgage lender will need, as this will be based on how you get paid. A mortgage broker will support you to have all the proper information compiled prior to your application.


Many mortgage lenders are happy to consider applications where seafarers get paid in a foreign currency. However, different lenders have different acceptable currencies. More lenders are willing to accept major currencies, such as Euro (EUR) or American Dollars (USD), compared to smaller currencies.  Foreign currency earnings will also likely be subject to firmer checks than earning in British pounds (GBP). This is primarily because exchange rates can fluctuate, meaning that your current affordability is less guaranteed for the future if you’re paid in a foreign currency.

Offshore Accounts

If you have any of your income paid straight into offshore accounts, you might find that this cannot be used to calculate your affordability for a UK mortgage. However, a broker can help you find a lender who’s willing to consider your application. Alternatively, examine how to get a mortgage in the UK based on foreign accounts.

Seafarer's Allowance and Tax Status

If you’re claiming Seafarer's Allowance or Seafarer's Earnings Deduction, and so are not liable for UK tax, it should not pose a problem for your mortgage application. You’ll need to have thorough records to show your income as well as proof of your tax status. Typically, you’ll also need to continue filing UK tax assessment forms while claiming Seafarer's Earnings Deduction and you’ll likely be asked to supply these tax returns as part of your application.

How Time at Sea Affects Getting a Mortgage

Typically, mortgages for seafarers are for people who spend at least half of the year in the UK. If you spend more than six months of a tax year outside the UK, you might be refused a seafarer's mortgage. In these cases, look at expatriate mortgages, as these are designed for people who aren’t primarily in the UK. You might be able to get a non-expatriate mortgage even if you spend more than half of the year outside the UK, but this will be down to the individual lender. You’ll also need to prove that you have a home in the UK where you do spend certain amounts of time and that you’re registered to vote at that address. You’ll also need to show all evidence of your travel and trips in and out of the UK.

Expatriate Mortgages vs Seafarer Mortgages

Expatriate mortgages are for people who are primarily out of the UK. Compared to seafarer mortgages, expatriate mortgages typically have higher interest rates and might require a higher deposit amount. This is because expatriate mortgages are a higher risk for lenders — if a lender defaults on a mortgage while living outside the UK, it could be very hard for the bank to take action against them. One of our experienced brokers can help you find ways to make sure that you get the best type of mortgage for your needs, whether that’s a seafarer or expatriate mortgage.

Expat Mortgage

What Do I Need for a Seafarer Mortgage?

Since the primary difference between a seafarer mortgage and a normal residential mortgage is your proof of income and residency, most of what you need will be similar to the information needed for any other mortgage application.

Proof of Residency

Seafarer mortgages are only for people who have a permanent right to reside in the UK. You’ll likely be asked to prove your residency status before your application is considered. Most lenders will ask to see your passport and HMRC paperwork, though some lenders will request additional proof of residency as well and proof that you live in the UK while not at sea.

UK Bank Account

Many mortgage lenders only accept applicants if they have a UK bank account for handling payments. There may also be regulations and rules that your deposit has to have been in a UK bank account for a certain length of time before you make the house purchase. You can check this with your mortgage provider or broker.


Having proper home insurance is important for getting a mortgage — most lenders want to make sure that the property is protected in case they have to reclaim it after a borrower defaults. Lenders will require buildings insurance as a minimum.

How Time at Sea Affects Getting Home Insurance

Seafarers might find it harder to get home insurance. If the house remains empty for long periods of time, it’s considered a greater risk. Many home insurance policies do not cover a building if it’s left unoccupied for more than 30 days at a time. This could lead to your insurance being invalidated and your mortgage terms being breached. Speak to a broker to ensure you get the right type of insurance if the property is going to be left unoccupied for over a month at a time.


Since seafarer mortgages are seen as higher risk than normal residential mortgages, you’ll usually find that the required deposit starts at around 15% of the property value. Some lenders will accept lower deposit amounts — potentially even as low as 5% — but this could lead to higher interest rates.

Property Types for Seafarer Mortgages

There are some property types where it can be harder than normal to get a mortgage due to additional perceived risks. If you’re already struggling to get a mortgage due to your work as a seafarer, you might find it hard to get a mortgage for a property such as:

Ex-Council Home: Due to low saleability, some mortgage providers are less willing to lend on ex-council houses and flats.

Non-Standard Construction Properties: This includes buildings made of concrete, steel or timber frames, as well as some converted buildings. These can be harder to get a mortgage on due to concerns over the property dropping in value.

Some Flats: Lenders can be hesitant with some types of flats, for example, flats under 30 square meters, with cladding, or high-rise flats above seven storeys. This is due to concerns over saleability.

If you’re looking to purchase one of these property types as a seafarer, contact one of our mortgage brokers to help you find a mortgage from a specialist lender.

Is It Easier to Get a Seafarer Mortgage with a Partner?

In some cases, it can be a lot easier for a seafarer to get a mortgage with a partner.

Multiple Incomes

If your partner is employed and paid in the UK, their income can be counted for affordability. This can help lessen concerns over tax statuses. It can also counteract the concerns over seafarers with variable incomes. If your partner has a stable income, their income might be counted as the primary measure for affordability.

Continued Occupancy

A lot of mortgage lenders are hesitant to lend on properties that will be empty for a long period of time. If your partner will be residing in the house permanently, even while you’re at sea, this can help make it easier for you to get a mortgage. This also makes it easier for you to get appropriate insurance for the property. If you’re looking at buy-to-let properties, your partner could also be the primary manager of the properties, helping to avoid concerns over management.

Seafarer Mortgage UK - The Bottom Line

Seafarer's mortgages for residences are typically similar to a standard residential mortgage, but there can be additional difficulties with the need to prove income, tax status, and residency. If you’re looking for a buy-to-let property or a mortgage for an unusual property, it can increase the difficulty of finding a suitable mortgage.

A seafarer's mortgage is only for people who reside in the UK. If you spend more than 6 months outside the UK, consider expatriate mortgages instead.
Getting a mortgage with a partner can help to circumvent some of these problems, but you’ll still be asked to prepare evidence in order to apply for a mortgage.

Here at John Charcol, we have years of experience with complex mortgage cases. We can help find you specialist lenders and make sure that your application has the best chance of being accepted. If you’re a seafarer in the UK looking for mortgage options, get in touch today to see what we can do for you.

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