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If you’re from another country and want to get a degree from an American-based university, you might not have access to federal international student loans. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck; you have other options. Private international student loans, or study abroad loans, can help you pay for your education.
Here’s how international student loans work — and how to apply:
- Who can apply for an international student loan?
- How to apply for a private international student loan
- Paying for school as an international student can be difficult, but not impossible
- Comparing private student loans
Who can apply for an international student loan?
While there are grants and scholarships available to international students, they’re hard to get, and they might not be enough to cover the total cost of attendance. If that’s the case, you’ll need to take out student loans.
Depending on your situation, you might qualify for federal student loans. These often have lower interest rates and more repayment options than private loans (but also come with student loan limits). To be eligible, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- You’re a U.S. national (this includes natives of American Samoa or Swains Island).
- You have a Permanent Resident Card, Resident Alien Card, or Alien Registration Card.
- You have an Arrival-Departure Record from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services that shows your status as a refugee, asylum granted, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Conditional Entrant (if issued before April 1, 1980), or Parolee.
- You or your parents have T-visas for victims of human trafficking.
- You’re a battered immigrant-qualified alien.
If you don’t fit into any of these categories, you won’t qualify for federal student loans. But you might be able to take out private student loans instead. Many private lenders work with international students. Some require you to have a cosigner who is a U.S. permanent resident — but not all. However, lenders that don’t require a cosigner might charge higher interest rates.
In general, private lenders require the following information:
- A valid domestic USPS mailing address
- Current passport
- Documentation proving you have the legal right to be in the U.S., such as:
- Current Form I-551 (Resident Alien Card)
- Current Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record showing valid F status or CFA/PAL status)
- Current stamped Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant student status) showing F-1 (academic student) status
- Current form I-20 showing eligibility for F-1 status and a copy of a visa showing a class of F-1
Learn More: How Student Loans Work
Here’s how to apply for a private international student loan
To apply for private international student loans, follow these steps:
- Research your educational options: Think about what degree you want to pursue and where you’d like to go to school. If you’re not sure, an international Educational Advising Center can help.
- Submit your college applications: Apply to the colleges you’ve chosen by their deadline. Generally, you can borrow up to your total cost of attendance with a private lender.
- Review your financial aid offer letter: When you’re accepted to a school, you’ll receive a financial aid offer letter explaining what aid you’re eligible to receive. This could include scholarships and grants, too, which can lower how much money you need to borrow. Once you decide where to go to school and what aid you’ll accept, contact the admissions or financial aid office to let them know.
- Apply for a visa: Once you’re accepted into a college, you can apply for the visa you’ll need to get into the U.S.
- Compare private student loan lenders: Compare rates from multiple lenders to find the lowest interest rate and best repayment terms.
- Consider getting a cosigner: If possible, find a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is willing to cosign a loan with you. A cosigner doesn’t have to be a relative; they can be a good friend or even a coworker as long as they’re creditworthy. Having a cosigner can increase your chances to qualify for a loan.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)|
|4.25% - 12.35%9||1.25% - 11.10%9|
but only with a qualified consigner
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Paying for school as an international student can be difficult, but not impossible
Paying for college as an international student might feel overwhelming, but there are financing options available to help. Many private organizations and companies offer scholarships specifically for international students, so make sure you apply for as many of these as you can.
Another option is the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. Under this program, graduate students, artists, and young professionals could be eligible for college grants that pay for them to research and study in the U.S. for one year or more. For more information or to apply, you can visit the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs website.
Comparing private student loans
After you’ve exhausted your other financial aid options, private student loans might help you pay for your education. Adding a cosigner to your application could also save you thousands of dollars while repaying your loan. Other options to consider are personal loans for students to cover some of your costs while you’re in school.
If you decide to apply for a private student loan, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates from as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy, especially since you only need to fill out one form instead of multiple applications.