Finimpact
Updated on

Best International Student Loans

Studying in the U.S. as an international student is expensive, and international students have fewer U.S. student loan options than most other borrowers. Unless you’re an eligible noncitizen who can qualify for federal student loans, you may need to borrow from a private lender who offers student...

Best Student Loans for Parents
Jason Steel
Written by:Jason Steel

An international student is any individual who’s enrolled in and attending school outside the borders of their home country. Individual colleges and universities may have their own definitions of who is an international student.

Studying at an American University is very expensive. To study at a public four-year college, it costs an average of $37,000 per year. For a private four-year college, that amount can be nearly $50,000. Although international students often have to prove that they have some financial means, they may need additional funds. To cover the large cost of studying at an American University, international students can apply for private student loans.

If you are looking for an international student loan, our team of financial experts reviewed and ranked more than 30 online lenders to help you get funded.

Our Top Picks for Best International Student Loans

 ascentfunding_logo_sl
  • Qualify with or without a cosigner
  • 0.25% to 1% autopay discount available
  • Get prequalified with no credit score impact
  • No loan application fees
Min. Credit Score
Min. Credit Score 680+
Loan Amounts
Loan Amount $2K-$200K
Fixed APR
Loan Repayment 5-15 years
earnest_logo_sl
  • Long 9-month deferment period
  • Opportunity to skip one payment per year
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
Min. Credit Score
Min. Credit Score 650+
Loan Amounts
Loan Amount $1K up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR
Fixed APR 5-20 years
 discover_logo_sl
  • Favorable terms for borrowers with strong credit scores
  • Potential to cover up to 100% of educational expenses
  • Zero Fees
Min. Credit Score
Min. Credit Score Not Disclosed
Loan Amounts
Loan Amount $1K up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR
Loan Repayment Up to 15 years

How to Choose the Best International Student Loan?

When choosing the best international student loans, there are several factors to consider. Our experts used these parameters to rank the available lenders.

  • Loan Features - it is important to compare loan terms, loan amounts, and loan use limitations.
  • Interest rates and fees - loans offer different types of fees, and minimum/maximum interest rates
  • Application process - invasiveness of application information requirements, hard-pull or soft-pull credit score impact, funding time and any distinctively competitive offerings.
  • Qualification process - minimum credit score, income requirements, co-signer/joint application optionality, or membership requirements.
  • Customer support - accessibility to a live CSR rep, the degree of multi-channel support, and the availability of supplemental information and tools.
  • Online user reviews - reviews on independent review websites
  • Perks and Bonuses - specified service offerings like payment flexibility, advertising transparency, and advanced technology.

Best International Student Loans for 2022 - Full Overview

1. Ascent - Best for Non-Cosigned Loans

Ascent
Ascent Funding is an online lender that offers undergraduate and graduate student loans to international students with or without a cosigner. Ascent accepts students who are not U.S. citizens, students who are not permanent residents and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.

Pros
Borrowers can receive a 1% cash back graduation reward when they meet specific terms and conditions
Outcomes-based loans without co-signers are eligible for a rate discount of 1% point with automatic payments
No application, origination, or disbursement fees
Cons
No student loan refinancing options
You may need to have more than two years of credit history for a loan without a cosigner
Charges late fees

Ascent offers variable APRs between 0.98% and 10.04% and fixed APRs between 3.22% and 13.61%. Loan terms vary between 5 and 15 years. Ascent offers loans from $2,001 up to the total cost of attendance, to a maximum of $200,000 per academic year. You will need a minimum credit score of 540 to receive a loan from Ascent. Student borrowers without a credit history can qualify with a co-signer who has income of at least $24,000 and a minimum credit score of 660 if the student has a score of less than 700, and a minimum credit score of 620 if the student has a score of 700 or higher. Borrowers can suspend payments for up to three months at a time, for a total of up to 24 months throughout the loan term.

Ascent is a good option for international students who don’t have a co-signer but meet the required qualifications. The cash bak graduation reward is an added bonus for students.

Try Ascent

2. Earnest - Best for No Fees

Earnest
Earnest is an online lender that offers student loans and student loan refinancing. International students who have a cosigner, a Social Security number and a U.S. address are eligible to apply for student loans with Earnest. Cosigners must have a credit score of 650 or higher, at least three years of credit history and an income of $35,000 or more. Earnest doesn’t have origination, application or prepayment fees. Earnest also offers some of the lowest interest rates if borrowers are creditworthy and enroll in automatic payments. Once borrowers have made at least six consecutive, on-time payments toward their loan, they can apply for the Skip a Payment feature, which allows you to skip one payment toward your loan every 12 months.

Pros
No origination, application, prepayment or late fees
Borrowers can skip one payment per year
Cons
Borrowers must have a valid U.S. Social Security number
Must have a cosigner that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

Rates with Earnest range from 3.24% to 12.78% for fixed rates and 1.34% to 11.44% for variable rates. There is also a rate discount of 0.25% for automatic payments. Loan amounts can be for as little as $1,000 and as much as 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance. Earnest offers full, interest-only, $25 fixed, and deferred prepayment plans. Repayment terms vary between 5 and 15 years.

Earnest is a good option for international students with a valid U.S. Social Security number and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner. If an international student fits this criteria, Earnest can be a good option for low fees and good rates.

Try Earnest

3. Discover - Best for Good Grades Rewards

Discover
Discover offers both international student loans for undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies. International borrowers need a cosigner to qualify for student loan financing, but students are not required to have a Social Security number to apply. Discover loans are available to DACA recipients as well. However, Discover doesn’t provide student loans to international students who are citizens of OFAC-sanctioned countries.

Pros
Receive a cash reward when you get good grades
Available to those without a U.S. Social Security number
Rate discount for automatic payments and interest-only repayment plans
No origination, application or late fees
Cons
Must have a cosigner that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
The only loan term option is 15 years for undergraduate student loans, 20 years for graduate students, and 10 or 20 years for student loan consolidation
No cosigner release program

Discover offers loans with between 4.49% and 13.34% fixed rates and 1.79% and 11.24% variable rates. Discover also gives a 0.25% rate for automatic payments and a 0.35% discount for interest-only repayment plans. Loan amounts can be for as little as $1,000 and as much as 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance. Discover offers full, interest-only, $25 fixed, and deferred prepayment plans. Discover student loans come with a repayment term of 15 years for undergraduate student loans, 20 years for graduate students, and 10 or 20 years for student loan consolidation.

Discover is a good option for international students who make good grades, since they can earn a cash reward for having a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Discover also provides a rate discount for automatic payments and interest-only repayment plans, which some international students may want to take advantage of. Additionally, there are no origination, application or late fees with Discover. Discover can also be a good option for international students without a U.S. Social Security number.

Try Discover

4. MPower Financing - Best for No Minimum FICO Score

MPower
MPower Financing offers student loans to international students without a FICO score. International and DACA students are eligible to apply without a cosigner. However, MPower Financing only works with about 350 schools in the U.S. and Canada, and only lends to students about to begin a one or two year program or who are in their last two years before graduation.

Pros
No credit history required
Cosigners not required
Rate discounts available
Cons
Only works with about 350 schools in the U.S. and Canada
Lends only to students about to begin a one or two year program or who are in their last two years before graduation
Requires interest-only payments during school and for six months after graduation

MPower provides loans between $2,001 and $100,000, with a limit of $25,000 per academic period. MPower offers fixed rates between 7.52 - 14.98%, which are on the high side. Loans are only available for 10 year terms.

MPower is a good option for international students who don’t have a FICO score or an eligible cosigner. However, there are some limitations to loans with MPower, including the school and programs that are eligible.

5. Prodigy Finance - Best for Postgraduate Students

Prodigy
Prodigy Finance offers postgraduate student loans for borrowers from 150 countries who plan to study as an international student at one of 850 schools across 18 countries. Prodigy doesn’t require a cosigner or collateral to apply. Interest rates are determined by the borrower’s future earnings potential as well as credit history, though credit history is not required. However, Prodigy’s interest rates are not the most competitive.

Pros
No cosigner required to apply
No collateral required to apply
Credit history is not required to apply
Loans are available to students from about 150 countries
No prepayment penalty or late fees
Cons
Only available for postgraduate students
Not available to students from every country
Borrowers pay an administrative fee of up to 2.5 percent
Not available to borrowers living in all 50 U.S. states

Prodigy Finance provides loans between $15,000 ($35,000 in certain U.S. states) and $220,000. Loan terms vary between seven and twenty years. Variable APRs vary from 7.52% to 12.00%. There is an origination fee of 2.5% of your loan amount at the beginning of your loan term. There are no late fees or prepayment penalty fees. A credit history is not required for this loan. However, Prodigy is not open to borrowers living in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington or Wyoming.

Prodigy Finance is a good option for international students attending postgraduate programs from 150 countries who plan to study as an international student at one of 850 schools across 18 countries. Prodigy also doesn’t require a cosigner, collateral or credit history to apply. However, it is important to compare Prodigy’s interest rates before accepting a loan.

6. Sallie Mae - Best for International Part-Time Students

Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae offers international student loans to students who attend school less than part-time, which not all lenders allow. Sallie Mae also provides multiple payment reduction options for borrowers experiencing financial difficulty. International students must have a cosigner to be approved for a student loan. International students who achieve permanent residency status can apply for cosigner release after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meeting credit score requirements.

Pros
Part-time students can qualify for a loan
Cosigner release option
Payment reduction options for borrowers experiencing economic hardship
Cons
Late payment fees
Interest rates are on the higher end

Sallie Mae offers loans with between 3.75% and 13.72% fixed rates and 2.00% and 12.35% variable rates. Sallie Mae also gives a 0.25% rate for automatic payments. Loan amounts can be for as little as $1,000 and as much as 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance. Sallie Mae offers interest-only, $25 fixed, and deferred prepayment plans. Sallie Mae student loans come with repayment terms between 5 and 15 years. Late payment fees do apply.

Sallie Mae is a good option for international students who are only attending school part-time and therefore may not have access to other student loans. Although a cosigner is required for non-U.S. citizens, international students who achieve permanent residency status can apply for cosigner release after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meeting credit score requirements.

Try Sallie Mae

7. LendKey - Best for Borrowers Who Prefer No Big Banks

LendKey
LendKey is a marketplace that connects borrowers with student loans from credit unions and community banks. LendKey can be a good option for international students who prefer to work with a community bank or credit union over a big bank. LendKey also offers a long forbearance period of 18 months for 15- and 20-year loan terms, which is longer than most other lenders.

Pros
Long forbearance of 18 months
Cons
Payment is required while in school and during the grace period
Loans aren't available in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island or West Virginia

LendKey offers loans with interest rates between 1.13% and 11.23%. Loan amounts can be for up to $125,000 for undergraduate degrees, up to $250,000 for graduate degrees, and up to $300,000 for medical, dental, or veterinary degrees. LendKey student loans come with repayment terms between 5 and 20 years. Late payment fees do apply and vary by lender. There is no prepayment penalty.

LendKey is a good option for international students who prefer to work with credit unions or community banks rather than big banks. LendKey also offers a long forbearance period of 18 months for 15- and 20-year loan terms, which is longer than most other lenders.

Try LendKey

Best International Student Loans - Feature Comparison


Company Name

Est. APR

Min. credit score

Loan Amount

Loan term

Ascent

0.98% - 13.61%

540

$2,001 - $200,000

5 - 15 years

Earnest

1.34% - 12.78%

650 for cosigners

$1,000 - 100% of cost of attendance

5 - 15 years

Discover

1.79% - 13.34%

660

$1,000 - 100% of cost of attendance

15 years

MPower Financing

7.52 - 14.98%

None

$2,001 - $100,000

10 years

Prodigy Finance

7.52% - 12.00%

None

$15,000 - $220,000

7 - 20 years

Sallie Mae

2.00% - 13.72%

650

$1,000 - 100% of cost of attendance

5 - 15 years

LendKey

1.13% - 11.23%

660

$1,000 - 100% of cost of attendance

5 - 15 years

How Do International Student Loans Differ from Federal Student Loans?

Federal student loans are often the better option for students because their interest rates are lower and they come with a wider range of repayment protections than most private loans. However, federal student loans are limited to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens, which include:

  • U.S. nationals, including natives of American Samoa and Swains Island
  • U.S. permanent residents that have a FormI-551, I-151 or I-551C (green card)
  • Those who carry an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services that place them in one of the following categories: Refugee, Asylum Granted, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Conditional Entrant (if issued before April 1, 1980), Parolee (in certain cases)
  • Students who hold, or whose parent holds, T nonimmigrant status for victims of human trafficking
  • Individuals determined to be a “battered immigrant-qualified alien,” as defined by the government, and their children
  • Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Republic of Palau

Students who fit into one of these categories can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to access federal financial aid. Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program can’t get federal student aid, but they may be able to get college aid from their schools or states.

How Do International Student Loans Work?

How Much Can International Students Borrow in Student Loans?

International students can have up to their full cost of attendance covered by student loans, though the maximum amounts vary by lender. Once the student receives the aid estimate, the school's financial aid office will review the amount and approve it. The approved amount is how much the student will actually be able to receive in student loans. If you need more assistance, ask the financial aid office about additional scholarships and grants offered by the school.

Do You Need a Cosigner to Get an International Student Loan?

To qualify for an international student loan, most international students will need a co-signer who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and who has a strong credit history. A co-signer is someone who accepts responsibility for making payments on your loan if you miss payments. It is important to note that if you miss payments, it could negatively impact your credit as well as your co-signer's. Therefore, co-signers should trust that the student applicant is financially responsible before agreeing to cosign a loan.

Since International students usually don't have a credit score, lenders can’t really set credit score requirements for the applicants themselves. However, the borrowers must have a creditworthy cosigner with a credit score in the mid-600s or above. Borrowers who have co-signers with higher credit scores will be more likely to be approved for a loan and will usually be offered lower interest rates.

International students may have a hard time finding someone willing to cosign a loan for them, since they may not have friends and family in the U.S. yet. For this reason, some lenders offer special loans for international students that don't require a co-signer. However, these loans often have higher interest rates.

Why Is It Hard for International Students to Get Student Loans?

Many international students are not eligible for other student loans because of specific loan eligibility requirements including citizenship status or credit score that they may not meet.

How Is the Interest Rate for International Student Loans Determined?

Lenders that provide loans to international students with a required U.S. citizen cosigner usually use the same information as any private student lender to determine interest rates, including the co-signer's credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio and payment history. Some lenders use other factors in determining interest rates, like the school, the program of study, country of origin or GPA.

Where Can You Get an International Student Loan?

Private international students are available from banks and non-bank lending companies. Student loans from banks are convenient in that students can do their banking and loans in the same place. Some banks also give an interest rate discount to borrowers who bank with them. However, most banks require a cosigner for international students.

Non-bank lenders can be more flexible. Some don’t require a cosigner or collateral. Most non-bank lenders operate completely online, which can be convenient for international students.

International students could also explore direct aid options from educational institutions. These are typically based on academic accomplishments, special skills, talents or abilities.

Eligibility Requirements for International Student Loans

International students must meet the eligibility requirements of the specific lender. Of course, to get an international student loan, the applicant must be an international student. An international student is not a U.S. citizen and is also not an eligible noncitizen. Eligible noncitizens include permanent residents, U.S. nationals and those who have T-1 status or a FormI-94. Specific eligibility requirements beyond this vary by lender, but most require that the international student is enrolled in an eligible school for at least half time. Many require proof of creditworthiness and a cosigner for international students as well. This can be difficult for international students who don’t have a credit history in the U.S. or who don’t have parents in the U.S. who can borrow on their behalf. Most lenders require a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. Cosigners don’t have to be a family member, but the cosigner will be responsible for the debt if the borrower defaults. There are a few lenders that don’t require a cosigner. Some lenders also look at other factors for approval, such as the school, the type of degree, the program of study or the student’s home country. DACA recipients with a Social Security number have additional options for student loans compared to international students who don’t have a Social Security number.

How to Apply for Private International Student Loans

To apply for a private international student loan, it is important that you follow the correct process with the following steps:

  • First, compare several loans to find the most affordable option for you.
  • Next, check your eligibility. Your eligibility may depend on the school, cost of attendance, and cosigner availability. Also, be sure to check the availability of loan providers who provide international student loans in your country and educational institutions.
  • Complete the application and submit the required documentation. These documents may include proof of identification, proof of residence, academic records, valid passport and Visa, proof of admission to university, and extra-curricular certificates.
  • Once you complete the application, you will wait for verification from the lender. The lender will communicate with your school to confirm your enrollment and the loan amount.
  • After your student loan is approved, you will get notified of the interest rates and repayment terms.
  • Once you agree to the terms and conditions, your loan application will be approved and the funds will be disbursed. This may take approximately 6 weeks to complete. The funds are typically disbursed directly to your school.

If you are eligible for a federal student loan, it is usually a better option than a private student loan. Federal student loans come with income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs based on your career and repayment plan. Their interest rates are often lower than private loan interest rates as well. To apply for a federal student loan, you will need to complete the following steps.

  • Students should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will ask for information about the student’s and parents’ income and other personal information.
  • University financial aid offices will use the information from your FAFSA to determine how much money you will be lent. They will compute this by subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the school’s cost of attendance. The EFC is the amount of money that the government believes you should be able to pay for college for the coming school year from your own financial resources. The cost of attendance includes tuition, fees, room and board and some other expenses.
  • The university will provide you with a loan amount, with terms and conditions.
  • You agree to the terms and conditions and the loan is approved.

Conclusion

Taking on debt is never easy, but sometimes it is necessary, especially for educational costs. If you need to take out an international student loan, be sure to compare rates and terms from multiple lenders to find the one that is best for you. There are multiple lenders out there that offer international student loans that have different pros and cons. Make sure to do your research before deciding on an international student loan.

FAQs

Are non-citizens eligible for federal student loans?

Federal student loans are limited to U.S. citizens and certain eligible non-citizens, which include groups like natives of American Samoa and Swains Island, U.S. permanent residents that have a FormI-551, I-151 or I-551C (green card) and students who hold, or whose parent holds, T nonimmigrant status for victims of human trafficking, among others.

What additional financial aid is available for international students?

International students can apply for private international student loans. Some schools may also have additional financial aid options available for international students.

What GPA do you need to get international student loans?

Most international student loan lenders do not have specific GPA requirements for their loans. However, you may be required to make satisfactory academic progress while in school, which means maintaining a minimum GPA of around 3.0.

Can you refinance international student loans?

Some international student loans allow refinancing. This depends on the specific loan.

Is There a Minimum Credit Score Required for International Student Loans?

There is usually not a minimum credit score required for international student loans. International students usually don't have a credit score, so lenders can’t really set credit score requirements. However, the borrowers must have a creditworthy cosigner with a credit score in the mid-600s or above. Borrowers who have co-signers with higher credit scores will be more likely to be approved for a loan and will usually be offered lower interest rates.

Jason Steel

Jason Steel

Jason Steel

Personal Finance Journalist

Writing about credit cards and travel rewards since 2008

More about me