International students can get loans to pay for college in the U.S. It will depend on your noncitizen status and if you have a co-signer.
Here’s how to tell if you can qualify for a federal student loan, which private loans you’re eligible for and how to shop for one.
If you’re an eligible noncitizen
Apply for federal student loans by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. This will also qualify you for free aid such as grants, scholarships and work-study. If you plan to borrow, federal loans offer lower interest rates than private loans do, as well as income-driven repayment plan options and forgiveness programs.
- U.S. nationals, including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island.
- U.S. permanent residents — those who have a “green card.”
- Those who have an Arrival/Departure Record from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services showing the following statuses: refugee; asylum granted; Cuban-Haitian Entrant; Conditional Entrant issued before April 1, 1980; or parolee.
- Those who hold T nonimmigrant status, or whose parents do.
- Those who are “battered immigrant-qualified aliens,” or children of someone designated as such.
If you’re not eligible for federal student loans
If you have a student visa, find a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and has good credit. You’ll have the best shot at a private loan with competitive interest rates if your co-signer’s credit score is 690 or higher.
If you’re not eligible for federal aid and don’t have a co-signer
Get a private student loan for international students. If you can’t find a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, find a lender with products designed for international students.
How to shop for an international loan
Compare loan features. Compare private international loan offers to get the lowest interest rate you qualify for. Note whether the lender will postpone payments if you have trouble paying them — and for how long. That’s important. Find out if there are origination, prepayment or late fees, and how easily you can reach the lender by phone, email or live chat if you encounter a billing or customer service issue.
Opt for a fixed interest rate. Given the choice, a fixed interest rate that won’t increase over time is a safer bet than a variable interest rate.
Keep an eye on the bottom line. Use a student loan calculator to see what kind of payment you’ll face after borrowing for multiple years.
Consider refinancing in the future
It’s more challenging for visa holders to refinance student loans. But there are a few ways to do it:
- Build your own credit before you refinance. If you remain in the U.S. and build a credit profile over time, you may be able to refinance private loans to a lower interest rate. You’ll generally need solid income, a credit score of 690 or higher and a history of on-time debt payments.
- Refinance with a co-signer. You may be able to refinance if you have a co-signer who fits those qualifications.
- Consider private refinancing for international students. Prodigy Finance is the only private lender that will refinance student loans for international working graduates in the U.S.