July 3, 2022

Best International Student Loans | Find the Best Loan for You | US News

Studying in the U.S. as an international student is a big expense. Even though students need to prove that they have ample finances before they begin school, there are times when they may need some extra funds. Some private lenders offer student loans for international students to help them complete their education. Learn what you should keep in mind if you’re an international student considering student loans.

The Best Loans for International Students in 2021

Earnest

3.34% to 12.78% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
650 Min. Credit Score

College Ave

3.34% to 12.99% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Sallie Mae

4.25% to 12.59% * Fixed APR
Not disclosed Max. Loan Amount
Mid 600s Min. Credit Score

Discover

4.24% to 12.99% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Citizens Bank

As low as 3.01% with autopay Fixed APR
$150,000 Max. Loan Amount
670 Min. Credit Score

EDvestinU

4.092% to 8.609% with autopay Fixed APR
$200,000 Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Ascent Funding

3.58% – 11.95% with autopay Fixed APR
$200,000 Max. Loan Amount
540 Min. Credit Score

Find the Best Student Loans for You

Best for fair credit

Earnest is an online lender offering private student loans to current college and graduate students and student loan refinancing to graduates. The company was founded in 2013. Borrowers can choose their loan terms to fund up to the full cost of their education.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, co-signer, refinancing, Parent PLUS refinancing, MBA, law, medical
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 650
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Earnest doesn’t charge origination, application or late fees.

  • You can choose your monthly payment and loan term length.

  • You can use a co-signer on undergraduate or graduate student loans, and student loan refinancing is available.

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Best for instant approval

College Ave Student Loans offers student loans to borrowers in all 50 states. Undergraduate, graduate and parent loans are available. The lender specializes in simple applications with an instant decision.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, parent loans, refinancing, MBA, law, dental, medical, career, international
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Loans are available from $5,000.

  • Prequalify for a rate in less than 1 minute.

  • Loan terms are available from 5 to 20 years.

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Best for product availability

Sallie Mae is a publicly traded consumer bank that offers private student loans to pay for undergraduate, graduate and specialty degrees. The company started in 1972 as a government entity that serviced federal student loans. It went private in 2004 and has served nearly half a million students and families with its range of student loan products. Beyond student loans, Sallie Mae Bank offers savings products to help families plan and pay for college, and credit cards with incentives for using cash back rewards to pay back student loans.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, career training, parent, K-12, graduate, MBA, medical, medical residency, dental, dental residency, health professions, law school, bar study
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Student loans completely cover school-certified expenses such as tuition, fees, books, housing, meals, travel or a laptop.

  • Customer service is 100% U.S.-based.

  • Borrowers don’t have to pay a loan origination fee.

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Best for no fees

Discover Bank has been operating for more than 100 years, and since 2010, it has offered private student loans to students attending more than 2,400 colleges and universities. Loans of up to 100% of education costs with fixed or variable rates are available.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, parent, refinancing, MBA, law, international, consolidation, health professions, residency, bar exam. International loans require a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Loans as small as $1,000 are available.

  • Discover has no origination, application or late fees.

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Best for streamlined approval process

Citizens Bank was founded in the late 1800s in Rhode Island. Today, it’s one of the largest commercial banks in the U.S. with a presence in 11 states. Branches are concentrated in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, parent loans, refinancing, parent refinancing
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 670
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Citizens Bank offers multiyear approval loans, meaning that once you get started, you will continue to secure funding for subsequent years in school without needing to go through a credit check every year.

  • Borrowers who are Citizens Bank customers who sign up for auto payments can reduce their interest rates by 0.5%.

  • International students can apply if they have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with good credit.

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Best for small loan amounts

EDvestinU is a nonprofit student loan lending and refinancing organization. It offers student loans to borrowers in all 50 states. Undergraduate and graduate loans and student loan consolidation are available.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, refinancing
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: B

Best Features

  • Loans are available from $1,000.

  • Borrowers can make full payments while in school, pay the interest only or defer payments.

  • EDvestinU student loans have no application, origination or prepayment fees.

See full profile

Best for bad credit

Ascent offers student loans to borrowers in all 50 states. Undergraduate and graduate loans are available. The lender specializes in providing opportunities for students to borrow loans in their own names.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, MBA, law, dental, medical, international, health professionals, graduate Ph.D./general, DACA students with an eligible co-signer
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 540
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A

Best Features

  • Ascent offers a 1% cash back graduation reward with the satisfaction of certain terms and conditions.

  • Co-signed loans offer the ability to make full payments while in school and during a nine-month grace period following graduation, or choose to pay interest only, a flat fee or defer payments.

  • Ascent student loans have no origination, prepayment or application fees.

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  • How do student loans for international students work?
  • Who is eligible for international student loans?
  • How do you compare international student loan lenders?
  • Can you refinance international student loans?

How Do Student Loans for International Students Work?

Unlike U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizen students, international students do not have access to federal student loans, and scholarship opportunities are scarce. If you’re an international student who needs to borrow money to fund your studies and living expenses, you will have to turn to private lenders that specialize in student loans for international students.

You must use international student loans for education-related expenses including the cost of attendance, room and board, books and insurance.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a vast array of options for these loans. Because international students must complete the College Board’s Certification of Finances form, they attest that they have the funding available to pay the tuition, fees and other living expenses associated with their program. “That process in and of itself makes it so that the demand for loans for international students isn’t as high as for domestic students,” says Kenneth Ferreira, associate vice president for student financial services at Franklin Pierce University.

That said, circumstances sometimes change, which may cause international students to be short on cash. Student loans for international students can help people in those situations complete their studies.

Who Is Eligible for International Student Loans?

The first requirement to get an international student loan is to be an international student. That means that not only are you not a U.S. citizen, but you’re also not an eligible noncitizen, which includes permanent residents, U.S. nationals and those who have T-1 status or a Form I-94.

Next, you have to enroll at least part time in an educational program at an eligible college or university. “Typically, the university or college will have a role in certifying the loan for the lender,” says Ferreira. The institution confirms the cost of attendance and the enrollment period, for example.

Beyond that, lenders mostly base private student loan approval on creditworthiness. The challenge then becomes that international students do not have a credit history in the U.S. or parents in this country who can borrow on their behalf. So, most lenders require a co-signer for the loan who is a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. “The co-signer would need to have acceptable credit scores and credit history,” says Kevin Towns, director of financial aid at North Central College. That way, if the student does not repay the loan, the co-signer pays the debt.

The co-signer doesn’t have to be a family member, but because that person will be on the hook for the debt, it should be someone with close ties to the student, says Towns. He or she must also have lived in the U.S. for at least two years and have strong credit.

Other factors that could affect approval decisions or interest rate offers may be subjective. For instance, some lenders might consider the school, the type of degree and sometimes the program of study or the student’s home country. From the lender’s perspective, the student’s earning potential can help predict the student’s ability to handle the repayment, says Towns.

This is especially true of the small number of lenders that allow student loans for international students without co-signers.

How Do You Compare International Student Loan Lenders?

International students do not have the same number of lenders from which to choose as U.S.-based students do, but it still pays to check the few available options. Because students may not be familiar with lender terminology and the loan process, Ferreira recommends that they work with their college’s financial aid office to help decipher the terms and conditions. “They vary from lender to lender, but typically terms and conditions involve any interest and fees associated with the loan,” he says.

Some items to compare between different international student loan providers include:

  • Interest rate: It’s important to check the rate and whether it’s variable or fixed. Variable rates may sometimes start out lower, but they will change from year to year and not necessarily in your favor. “If there is an option to choose fixed, that’s always a good thing to consider,” says Towns.
  • Repayment requirements: Some lenders may require repayment of interest or a complete payment each month beginning right away while the student is still in school. Others allow borrowers to defer all payments until after graduation. And some may let the borrower choose.
  • Term: Lenders may allow borrowers to choose between different term lengths. You should compare the monthly costs of each option to see which one is affordable, as well as consider the total cost over the life of the loan. The longer the term, the more it will cost in the long run, but payments for shorter-term loans will be higher.
  • Hardship options: Find out if the lender offers any programs such as forbearance, which allows you to pause payments if you have a temporary financial setback or become unemployed.
  • Discounts: Some lenders may offer an interest rate discount for borrowers who enroll in automatic payments or who make a certain number of consecutive payments on time.
  • Co-signer release: Though this is unusual for international student loans, there may be an opportunity with certain lenders to release the co-signer from his or her obligation. Typically, this requires you to become a citizen or permanent resident, as well as complete a certain number of consecutive on-time payments.

Can You Refinance International Student Loans?

Refinancing international student loans is possible, but tricky. You usually need to have an established credit history and a reliable income – both of which may be a challenge for international students to prove.

If a couple of years go by and you can establish credit as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then it is more likely that you will be able to refinance your existing student loans on your own. Otherwise, just like with most student loans for international students, lenders will require you to have a U.S.-based co-signer to refinance your loan.

Refinancing student loans can be a good option for some borrowers as it consolidates multiple loans into one loan payment. Another reason to explore refinancing is to see if you qualify for a better interest rate or to lower your monthly payment. Like all financial issues, it’s important to crunch the numbers to see if a new loan would be beneficial.

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