Best International Student Loans

Search for student loans as an international student or DACA recipient

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For international students who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents, covering the costs of a college degree in the U.S. can be a challenge. That’s because citizenship or residency status is a big factor in eligibility for federal student aid and most private student loans.

But a few lenders make private student loans (and refinancing options) available to non-U.S. citizen borrowers. We compared their eligibility requirements, rates and fees, and repayment terms to determine the best international student loans for your needs.

Lender Why We Picked It Fixed APR* Variable APR*
Citizens Bank Best Overall

4.25%–11.04%

4.29%–11.53% (grad)

1.23%–10.56%

1.41%–11.00% (grad)

MPower Financing Best for International Undergraduate Students

14.98%

12.94% (grad)

N/A
Prodigy Finance (graduate only) Best for International Graduate Students N/A Minimum 5.4%
Sallie Mae Best With a Co-signer

4.25%–12.35%

4.75%–12.11% (grad)

1.25%–11.10%

2.25%–11.76% (grad)

Ascent Student Loans Best Interest Rates

3.58%–14.50%

4.62%–13.54% (grad)

2.69%–12.98%

3.65%–12.40% (grad)

SoFi Best for Refinancing 2.99%–6.09% 2.24%–6.09%

*APRs include rate discounts for enrolling in automatic payments, if offered. Additional discounts may be available.

Citizens Bank: Best Overall

Citizens Bank takes the lead among international student loans thanks to its competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms. It also provides avenues for borrowers who become resident aliens or citizens to later refinance their student loans and release a co-signer.

International students can apply for a Citizens Bank student loan with a qualified co-signer who is a U.S citizen or permanent resident. Citizens Bank also accepts student loan refinancing applications from resident aliens with a valid U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) and a U.S. citizen or resident co-signer.

Borrowers planning to work in the U.S. after graduation and attain citizenship or permanent residency can release a co-signer after 36 on-time payments. You need to provide proof of citizenship or resident status, and satisfy a credit check and income verification requirements.

Choose from three repayment options, including immediate repayment, full deferment, or partial interest-only payments while in school.

  • Fixed APR range: 4.25%–11.04% for undergraduates; 4.29%–11.53% for graduate students
  • Variable APR range: 1.23%–10.56% for undergraduates; 1.41%–11.00% for graduate students
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $150,000
  • Repayment length: 5, 10, or 15 years
  • Co-signer required for international students: Yes
  • Minimum credit score: Not listed
  • Origination fee: None 
What We Like
  • Student loan refinancing for alien residents with a U.S. citizen or resident co-signer

  • Co-signer release available if a borrower becomes a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

  • Competitive interest rates and no origination fee

What We Don't Like
  • Competitive interest rates and no origination fee

  • No soft credit pre-qualification

MPower Financing: Best for International Undergraduate Students

MPower offers international student loans to students in the U.S. and Canada, including DACA recipients, refugees, and asylum seekers. It bases lending decisions on “future earnings potential,” and doesn’t require U.S. credit history, collateral, or a co-signer. You must be within two years of graduating and attending one of more than 350 colleges the lender has approved for financing.

MPower stands out for its transparent loan costs, details, and requirements, and for working with undergraduates who don’t have a co-signer.

MPower has higher interest rates overall compared to other lenders, as well as a 5% student loan origination fee. Its international undergraduate student loans carry the highest rates, while lower rates are offered to international graduate students and to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and DACA recipients.

Borrowers can drop their rate by up to 1.50%, 0.50% for each of the following: enrolling in automatic payments, making six on-time automatic payments, and providing proof of graduation and employment.

Borrowers make interest-only payments until six months after school, when full repayment begins over a 10-year repayment term. MPower Financing offers other benefits that can help international borrowers, including scholarships, visa support letters, and complimentary career strategy services.

  • Fixed APR range: 14.98% for international undergraduates, 12.94% for international graduate students
  • Loan amounts: $2,001 to $25,000 per loan, $50,000 lifetime limit
  • Repayment length: 10 years
  • Co-signer required for international students: No
  • Minimum credit score: None
  • Origination fee: 5%
What We Like
  • International student loans with no co-signer, collateral, or U.S. credit history required

  • Interest rate discounts of up to 1.50%

  • Member benefits such as visa support, scholarships, and career services

What We Don't Like
  • Higher interest rates and a 5% origination fee

  • No option for full in-school deferment

  • Lower borrowing limits of up to $25,000 per academic period, and $50,000 total

  • Must be within two years of graduating to qualify

Prodigy Finance: Best for International Graduate Students

Prodigy Finance offers international student loans for graduate students, providing competitive rates without a co-signer. It works with students who are studying abroad, enrolled in one of more than 750 graduate programs it supports, and who are residents of Prodigy’s eligible countries and regions.

Like MPower Financing, Prodigy Finance offers international student loans to borrowers who don’t have a co-signer. But Prodigy Finance caters to graduate students only.

Prodigy Finance only offers a variable rate on its student loans, and requires an origination fee of up to 4%. Graduate students can borrow a minimum of $15,000, while the maximum is based on the individual application. 

Payments are fully deferred while you’re enrolled, and for a six-month grace period after. Prodigy offers forbearance arrangements upon request, which can suspend payments for up to three months at a time.

  • Variable APR range: 5.4% minimum for graduate students
  • Loan amount: $15,000 up to full cost of attendance
  • Repayment length: 7 to 20 years
  • Co-signer required for international students: No
  • Minimum credit score: Not listed
  • Origination fee: Up to 4%  
What We Like
  • International graduate students can apply without a co-signer

  • Competitive variable interest rates

  • Full deferment during enrollment and a 6-month grace period

  • Forbearance arrangements offered on request for three-month periods

What We Don't Like
  • Origination fee of up to 4%

  • Eligibility limited to specific graduate programs and countries or regions

  • Must borrow a minimum of $15,000

Sallie Mae: Best with a Co-signer

Sallie Mae offers similar terms to Citizens Bank (best overall category winner), though Citizens edges this lender out with slightly better rates, particularly for graduate students. Still, we like that Sallie Mae has competitive rates for borrowers applying with a co-signer, flexible repayment options including forbearance, and the option to release a co-signer if you become a U.S. resident or citizen.

Sallie Mae accepts applications from international students and recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) with a qualified co-signer.

If you plan to work in the U.S. after completing your education, you could become eligible for co-signer release if you become a U.S. citizen or acquire permanent resident status. You’ll also need to make 12 months of on-time, full payments, be employed, and satisfy other financial criteria.

Sallie Mae repayment options include full in-school deferment, smaller interest-only payments, or fixed $25 payments. If you need student loan relief once repayment begins, Sallie Mae offers forbearance upon request for three months at a time, up to 12 months over the life of your loan.

  • Fixed APR range: 4.25%–12.35% for undergraduates; 4.75%–12.11% for graduate students
  • Variable APR range (if applicable): 1.25%–11.10% for undergraduates; 2.25%–11.76% for graduate students
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to full cost of attendance
  • Repayment length: 5–20 years, depending on loan type
  • Co-signer required for international students: Yes
  • Minimum credit score: Not listed
  • Origination fee: None
What We Like
  • Option to release co-signer if you become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

  • Competitive student loan rates and no origination fee

  • In-school deferment and forbearance available

What We Don't Like
  • No option for international students without a co-signer

  • No soft-credit pre-qualification

Ascent Student Loans: Best Interest Rates

Ascent Student Loans made the list by offering some of the best interest rates to international students (with a U.S. citizen or resident co-signer). It didn’t top our list because there’s no option to release a co-signer or refinance.

Ascent Student Loans accepts applications from non-U.S. citizens, non-residents, and DACA recipients for undergraduate and graduate loans if they add a U.S. citizen or resident co-signer. This lender’s starting rates on both fixed- and variable-rate loans are among the lowest we found, with no origination fee. 

Ascent rewards eligible borrowers upon graduation, offering 1% cash back on their outstanding student loan balance.

Flexible repayment options are another benefit. Borrowers can defer payments in school, or opt to make smaller interest-only or $25 monthly payments. Ascent’s student loan grace period is nine months. Ascent also offers forbearance and deferment options and a graduated repayment plan, which eligible borrowers can use to lower monthly costs early on in repayment. 

  • Fixed APR range: 3.58%–14.50% for undergraduates; 4.62%–13.54% for graduate students 
  • Variable APR range (if applicable): 2.69%–12.98% for undergraduates; 3.65%–12.40% for graduate students
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $200,000 (aggregate total)
  • Repayment length: 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, or 20 years (depending on loan and rate type selected)
  • Co-signer required for international students: Yes
  • Minimum credit score: Not listed
  • Origination fee: None 
What We Like
  • Competitive student loan rates with no origination fee

  • 1% cash back reward upon graduating

  • Flexible repayment options including in-school deferment and graduated payments

  • Forbearance and deferment options for borrowers in financial distress

What We Don't Like
  • No student loan options without a co-signer for non-U.S. citizens and students without permanent resident status

  • No co-signer release for international students

SoFi: Best for Refinancing

If you’ve already graduated and are looking for options to manage existing student debt, refinancing can be a way to do that. SoFi stands out for having some of the clearest and most flexible eligibility requirements for international borrowers. SoFi also offers competitive rates and solid borrower benefits and protections.

You can apply to refinance student debt on your own if you’ve become a citizen, permanent resident, or nonresident alien holding one of these visas: E-2, E-3, H-1B, J-1, L-1, O-1.

If you don’t meet the above requirements, you can still apply if you add a qualified U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. SoFi will honor the first 6 months of the grace period on your existing debt. It also offers career services, including one-on-one coaching, to its student loan refinancing customers.

Borrowers in school can also consider SoFi, as eligibility is open to non-permanent resident aliens and DACA recipients who apply with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer.

  • Fixed APR range: 2.99%–6.09% for student loan refinancing 
  • Variable APR range: 2.24%–6.09% for student loan refinancing 
  • Refinancing amounts: $5,000 up to full loan balances
  • Repayment length: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Co-signer required for international students: Yes for undergraduate and graduate loans; No for student loan refinancing with eligible visa
  • Minimum credit score: Not listed
  • Origination fee: None 
What We Like
  • Student loan refinancing without a co-signer for certain visa-holders

  • Competitive interest rates and no origination fees

  • Member benefits such as career coaching and rate discount

  • Unemployment protection and forbearance available

What We Don't Like
  • Higher minimum loan amount of $5,000

Who Qualifies as an Eligible Noncitizen for Federal Student Aid?

Some students may be eligible for federal student aid, even if they are U.S. non-citizens. Here’s who can qualify as an eligible noncitizen for federal student aid:

  • A U.S. permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C (also called a “green card”), which is the most common way to qualify as an eligible noncitizen
  • A U.S. national such as a native from American Samoa or Swains Islands
  • A citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau
  • A student with Arrival-Departure Records (I-94) from U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) with status of refugee, asylum granted, Cuban-Haitian entrant, parolee, or conditional entrant (issued before April 1, 1980)
  • A student with a T-Visa for victims of human trafficking, or whose parents hold T-1 nonimmigrant status
  • A “battered immigrant-qualified alien” who is the victim of abuse by a spouse or parent who is a citizen or permanent resident
  • Certain Native American students born in Canada

If you are an eligible noncitizen, complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for federal student aid. 

Unfortunately, DACA recipients are not currently eligible for federal student aid, but should speak to their financial aid office for further support and resources to pay for college.

Do International Students Get Financial Aid?

International students who do not qualify as eligible non-citizens cannot access federal student aid, from Pell grants and work-study to federal student loans. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get help paying for college.

Here are some potential sources of student aid for international students:

  • Institutional aid includes funding provided by the college or program you’re attending. 
  • Scholarships and grants can be offered by private organizations, nonprofits, and even government agencies. Find these with scholarship search engines such as FastWeb or College Board, or tools specifically for international students like the IEFA Database.
  • Student aid from your home country government. 

Don’t overlook other ways of getting money for college. International students can typically work on-campus (and possibly off-campus, depending on their visa status) and use earnings to cover expenses.

Where Can You Get an International Student Loan?

When searching for an international student loan, start with your school’s financial aid office. It’s their job to help students find resources to pay for college, and the advisors there can suggest lenders that work with international students at your school.

If you plan to apply with a co-signer, you’ll likely have more options. Several banks and lenders will offer student loans to international students with a well-qualified, U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer:

  • Ascent Student Loans
  • Citizens Bank
  • Discover
  • Earnest (primary borrower must have their own SSN)
  • Sallie Mae
  • SoFi

If you’re an international student without a co-signer, online lenders are more likely to provide alternative financing options. MPower Financing and Prodigy Finance are the standouts here, both accept applications with no co-signer required while offering clear terms and costs. 

How to Choose the Right International Student Loan Lender

Here’s what to look for to find the best international student loans for your situation:

  • Eligibility requirements that you can satisfy
  • Low interest rates and fees (take rate discounts into account)
  • Loan limits that allow you to borrow what you need
  • Your desired in-school repayment option (full deferment or interest-only payments, for example)
  • Deferment, forbearance, or other borrower protections during repayment
  • Other features such as career support or co-signer release options

How We Chose the Best International Student Loans

Research for this article encompassed private student loan lenders of undergraduate private student loans (as well as companies that refinance student loans) narrowed down from national banks, credit unions, and lenders. The criteria for measuring each lender included all available APR ranges for these loans, fees charged, repayment plans and hardship options offered, and the inclusion of additional features such as co-signer release, the availability of a parent loan, and the ability to refinance.

Ultimately, the "best of" awarded the highest status to the lenders that are available nationwide that offered the lowest fixed APRs, the most comprehensive hardship programs, and the lowest number of fees.

The Bottom Line

The search for student loans can be complicated for international students, but it is possible to find a lender that fits your needs. You’ll have the most options if you have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident willing to act as your co-signer. Use our loan shopping tips and list of the best international student loans to jumpstart your search for help with college funding.

Article Sources

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  9. Prodigy Finance. "Build Your Future." Accessed Dec. 1, 2020.

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  15. Ascent. "Cosigned Student Loans Designed With You in Mind." Accessed Dec. 1, 2020.

  16. SoFi. "Eligibility Criteria." Accessed Dec. 1, 2020.

  17. SoFi. "Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed Dec. 1, 2020.

  18. SoFi. "Student Loan Refinancing Rates and Terms." Accessed Dec. 1, 2020.

  19. Federal Student Aid. "Many Non-U.S. Citizens Qualify for Federal Student Aid." Accessed Dec. 1, 2020.