To study in the U.S., international students often need significant funding and an F, J or M student visa. While a visa can be simple to apply for, the U.S. is one of the top three most expensive countries for international students, costing twice as much or more than studying in New Zealand, Australia or Canada.
Generally, federal student loans are the best option for financing college, but they are only available to U.S. citizens and eligible non-U.S. citizens like permanent residents, asylees, citizens of certain countries like Palau, and a few other categories. The next best option for international students is private student loans — which can be tricky for nonresidents unfamiliar with lenders in the country.
To help you find the best student loans for international students, MoneyGeek examined more than 30 private lenders across six key categories: affordability, accessibility, consumer friendliness, customer service, flexibility and lender transparency.
MPower Financing Review
- MPower Financing
Best option for international students looking for a fixed interest rate.
- 13.72% – 15.01%Fixed APR Range
- Not SpecifiedVariable APR Range
- $2,001 up to $100,000Loan Amount Range
- Not requiredCo-Signer
on MPower Financing Website
Prodigy Finance Review
- Prodigy Finance
Best for international students seeking a master’s degree.
- Starts at 4.98%Fixed APR Range
- Starts at 4.66%Variable APR Range
- Minimum $15,000, no maximumLoan Amount Range
- Not requiredCo-Signer
on Prodigy Finance Website
Best for all higher education students.
- 3.99%–11.59%Fixed APR Range
- 1.79%–11.09%Variable APR Range
- $1,000 up to 100% of college expensesLoan Amount Range
- Optional Co-Signer
on Discover Website
Best for international students who need additional support with their loans.
- 4.36%–14.08%Fixed APR Range
- 1.47%–11.31%Variable APR Range
- $2,001–$200,000Loan Amount Range
- Non-U.S. citizens and temporary residentsCo-Signer
on Ascent Website
How Do International Student Loans Work?
To fund their studies, students often turn to federal student loans — which are only available for U.S. citizens and eligible categories of non-U.S. citizens. Thus, foreign students who come to the U.S. often seek private student loans instead.
A private student loan for international students often requires a co-signer who has U.S. citizenship or is a U.S. permanent resident — but not all lenders have this requirement. Apart from this, lenders also require:
- Proof of acceptance to a university or college
- A student visa
- Transcript or enrollment documents from previous universities
- Information for an eligible co-signer
Once accepted, the student can use an international student loan for any education-related costs, including tuition, cost of living, books and more. These funds are often disbursed to the university first, with leftovers given to the borrower.
A student loan for international students can be costly or difficult to get — especially if you don’t have a co-signer. Because of this, it’s beneficial for international students to get a high loan amount with a single lender to maximize interest rates.
Who Can Get an International Student Loan?
To get an international student loan in the U.S., borrowers must meet certain qualifications. These include:
- The student must not be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-U.S. citizen: International student loans are meant for non-U.S. citizens.
- The student must have a solid credit history: The student must demonstrate financial responsibility.
- The student must have a creditworthy, eligible co-signer: If the lender requires a co-signer, the co-signer should typically have a decent credit history and be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-U.S. citizen.
- The student must be accepted into an eligible study program or university: The lender will require proof of acceptance to an eligible program or university.
- The student must have an F, M or J visa: The lender may ask for proof of application for a visa or a granted visa.
Factors to Consider in an International Student Loan
Borrowers considering international student loans should consider a few factors before applying. In particular, the following factors can affect the total cost of the loan and even the terms of the loan during its lifetime:
- Interest rates: This is considered the “cost of the loan,” or what the student pays on top of the principal amount. For example, if a student borrows $10,000 and has a 5% interest rate, they would owe $500 in interest.
- Repayment terms: This is how long it will take to repay the loan following a monthly repayment plan. This can be anywhere from 5 to 20 years. The longer the repayment term, the lower the monthly payments, but the higher the cost paid in interest over time.
- Funds disbursement: This is the time it takes to receive the funds and how they are released. Some lenders give the borrowed amount directly to the school to cover costs, while others disburse funds to the borrower to cover their education-related expenses.
- Co-signer release: This is whether a co-signer can be “released” from responsibility for the loan after a certain period.
- Hardship options: Some lenders offer flexible options if a borrower is facing hardship. These can include skipping a few payments or lowering the monthly payment, depending on the lender. These options are generally good and can serve as a last resort for a struggling borrower.
- Discounts and other benefits: Some lenders offer discounts on interest rates or other perks. For instance, lenders like MPower offer discounts for agreeing to automatic payments.
While these factors can vary from lender to lender, understanding them can help a student find the best loan for their needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About International Student Loans
To give potential borrowers a thorough understanding of student loans for international students, MoneyGeek answered a few frequently asked questions.
We reviewed more than 30 private student loan lenders using 35+ individual data points across six key categories: loan affordability, accessibility, consumer friendliness, customer service, flexibility and lender transparency.
Within each ranking criteria category, we considered several individual data points that we feel carry the most weight when choosing a private student loan lender. These factors include APR ranges, available loan amount, minimum credit score, minimum income amount, application fees and disbursement time.
MoneyGeek values you, the consumer, so we also factor in each lender’s customer support, business ratings and additional features that could make your experience easier and more accessible — like prequalification, payment options and mobile apps.
After careful consideration and calculation, our picks are decided and chosen with your best interest in mind. Our personal loan recommendations and expert tips are meant to help you make the best decision when choosing a lender that meets your needs.
Read More About Student Loans
- Federal Reserve. "Consumer Credit – G.19." Accessed March 15, 2022.
- U.S. Department of Education. "Eligibility for non-U.S. Citizens." Accessed January 5, 2023.
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