Borrower that have to recertify student loans are on an income-based repayment (IBR), income-contingent repayment (ICR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan.
This means you must submit some paperwork showing your income and a few additional financial details each year. Here’s what you need to know about recertifying for income-driven repayment.
In this post:
- Deadline to recertify
- How to recertify
- What if you forget to recertify
- Recertify annually to stay on track
Deadline to recertify
Once you apply and get started with IDR, you will get a notice from your federal student loan servicer every year that it’s time to recertify. Your notice will include a deadline. Never miss that deadline or you may be at risk of losing your IDR.
You can usually go back into IDR if you miss the deadline, but until that happens you could see your payments increase. Student loans recertification is not a good time to procrastinate. Just get it done as soon as possible after receiving the notice and you won’t have to worry about the deadline.
Learn More: Income-Driven Repayment Plans
How to recertify
Once you get the notice that it’s time to recertify, you are wise to get started right away. You have a couple of options for how to recertify student loans, but you have to submit the same information either way.
The fastest and easiest way to recertify student loans for most people is at StudentLoans.gov. It takes about 10 minutes for most people and must be completed in one session.
Here’s how to recertify your student loans online:
- Go to the Federal Student Aid website
- Scroll down to the Returning IDR Applicants section and click the option to “submit annual re-certification of my income”
- Log in with your FSA ID and password (this is also used for the FAFSA and other federal student loan needs online)
- Enter your household information, including family size, marital status, and basic information about your type of employer
- Complete the income verification by connecting to your IRS tax return (if your income information has changed since your last tax year, you can submit a pay stub or letter from your employer dated no older than 90 days ago)
- Enter your spouse’s income, if applicable
- Submit your latest personal information (like contact information)
- Review and sign your recertification
You can also recertify by mail. This process is a bit more cumbersome, takes more time, and might require a trip to the post office. The information you submit is the same, however.
Here are the steps to recertify student loans by mail:
- Complete the latest IDR plan request form (a recent version is available here)
- Attach required income verification documents
- Send your completed form and documents to the address provided by your loan servicer
What if you forget to recertify
If you forget to recertify, a few things can happen:
- If you use automatic payments, it could lead to accidental overdrafts in your checking account or accidentally underpaying — that could mean fees and damage to your credit report and credit score
- If you have unpaid interest, it could be capitalized, which means it is added to the principal and could increase future interest and payments
- If you’re working toward student loan forgiveness, forgetting to recertify could derail your plans
Nothing good happens when you forget to recertify. You can generally go back on the same plan if you complete the application again, but you can’t go back and undo what happened in the months after the deadline.
If you have great credit, you may be able to get a lower interest rate from private student loans. It’s worth looking at your options to compare student loan refinance options. Private lenders have their own rules and programs for repayment.
Recertify annually to stay on track
Losing a lower payment from a student loan repayment plan could blow up your budget and put you under serious financial strain. Recertification isn’t too difficult and might take less than ten minutes. If you want to stay on your IDR, annual recertification is a must.