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International Student Loans: Compare Options for 2019

Private student loans will be the best option for international students since most cannot qualify for federal student loans.
Feb. 1, 2019
Personal Finance, Student Loans
International Student Loans: Compare Options for 2018
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International students have fewer U.S. student loan options than most borrowers. Unless you’re an eligible noncitizen who can qualify for federal student loans, you may need to borrow from a private lender.

  • U.S. nationals, including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island
  • U.S. permanent residents; that is, you 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 a T-nonimmigrant status, or those whose parents do
  • Those who are “battered immigrant-qualified aliens,” or children of someone designated as such

Some banks, credit unions and online lenders offer student loans for international students, but they often require you to have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Your co-signer will need good credit for approval and to get the most favorable rates.

You may be able to find a private lender that doesn’t require a co-signer, but you’ll pay higher interest rates as a result.

» MORE: How can international students get loans?

International student loans without a co-signer

LenderGet started

5 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0

MPOWER review
4.5 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Prodigy review

How they stand out

Prodigy Finance Student Loan

Prodigy is a niche product available only for international graduate students. You don’t need a co-signer or collateral to get a loan and your interest rate is determined by future earnings and credit history in your country. Prodigy also offers discounts, member perks, and career services.

MPOWER student loan

MPOWER’s interest rates are relatively high, but the lender offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans to international students. You’ll be evaluated based on earning potential and positive payment history on your credit report, though not on your score.

» MORE: How to refinance international student loans

International student loans with a co-signer

LenderGet started

5.0 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Ascent Tuition loan review

4.0 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Citizens One student loan review
Discover logo
5.0 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Discover student loan review
Sallie logo
4.5 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Sallie Mae student loan review
5 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Wells Fargo student loan review

5 stars out of 5
NerdWallet rating: 3.5 / 5.0

College Ave student loan review

How they stand out

Ascent Tuition

There are no application fees, origination fees or prepayment penalties with Ascent. The lender also offers residency or internship deferment for up to 24 months.

You’ll receive up to 24 months of forbearance if you have trouble making payments, which is more generous than most lenders.

Citizens One

Citizens One is one of the only lenders to offer multiyear approval for student loans. That means that after your freshman year, you can request loans for each subsequent school year without undergoing a hard credit check, which affects your co-signer’s credit.


There are no fees with Discover, even for late payments. Discover offers several options if you’re struggling to make payments: up to 12 months of forbearance; up to 12 months of temporary interest rate reduction; and up to six months of temporary payment reduction. Discover also offers a cash reward equal to 1% of each new student loan for borrowers who earn at least a 3.0 grade point average.

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae borrowers can defer payments in 12-month increments for up to 60 months for internships, residencies or fellowships. Sallie Mae also offers a 12-month, interest-only repayment option for postgrad borrowers. Struggling borrowers are eligible for up to 12 months of forbearance. Borrowers can also get free quarterly FICO credit scores and online tutoring.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo borrowers work with a dedicated student loan specialist for the life of the loan. Wells Fargo offers many options for struggling borrowers, including:

        • Up to 36 months of internship, residency or fellowship forbearance
        • Up to three years of public service forbearance
        • Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster payment deferment
        • An additional six-month grace period extension
        • Up to two months of short-term payment relief (lowered interest rate, lower monthly payment or extended repayment term)
        • Up to six months of payment relief due to financial hardship
        • Loan modification to temporarily or permanently lower your payment amount
        • Loan repayment options for past-due payments

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