If you’ve researched all the available funding options for you as an international student in the US, and you are still in need of additional financing, your next place to look is an international student loan.
If, like many international students, you didn’t realize that loans were even available for international students, here’s a roundup of 10 things you need to know about international student loans and how to apply for them. We will also point you in the direction of additional useful resources and the loan comparison tool which you can find here.
10 things you need to know about international student loans
1) International Student Loans Explained
International Student Loans are specialized private education loans that are available for international students who are studying in the USA or Canada at approved colleges and universities. US students in the USA are able to apply for Federal student loans (provided by the US Government), but these are not available to international students.
In many cases, international students in the US have to apply with a qualified cosigner and should only apply for international student loans after exhausting all scholarships, personal funds, and other options. At select schools in the US and Canada there are loans without a cosigner available for select students to apply for.
2) Who is eligible to apply for international student loans
Students who are not US citizens or non-citizen permanent residents and who are attending an eligible US college or university. Loans are also available to international students in Canada (including US students) at select universities.
In most cases in the US, borrowers are required to have a credit-worthy cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident. However, there are loans available at select schools that do not require a cosigner, depending on your situation as the borrower.
Students who are not US citizens or permanent residents and who are attending schools outside the US/Canada are not currently eligible for an international student loan.
3) The types of loans available
Lenders only work with specific colleges and universities, and not every lender works with international students. This can make it difficult at times to find the right option for your situation. International Student Loan has a helpful comparison tool which will show the options that are available to you depending on your circumstances – taking into account your course of study, duration of study, field of study and if you’re studying at an approved US or Canadian college or university.
There are loans for students who have a US cosigner, and loans that do not require a co-signer that are available to students in select instances.
4) What international student loans can be used for
International student loans, like all private education loans, can be used for education-related expenses.
The main categories/items that an international student loan can cover are:
- mandatory fees (costs specific to a school or university)
- books and educational supplies/equipment
- transportation (including airfare)
- room and board
- and other school-related expenses – can include food, personal expenses, leisure and communication
5) The maximum loan amount
The maximum amount that you are able to take out in the form of an international student loan is the total cost of your education minus any other aid (like scholarships, grants, etc) received.
The total cost of your education will vary based on your school and the program’s cost of attendance. After you apply and receive credit approval your school must certify the amount of the loan.
6) Loans for non-US citizens or non-US-permanent residents studying in a destination outside the US, are not available
Most international student loan options are only for non-US citizens studying inside the United States. However, we now have loan options at a few select universities for those who want to study in Canada!
A cosigner is required for many international student loan programs, but not all.
If a cosigner is required they must be a US citizen or a US permanent resident, with good credit, who has lived in the US for the past two years. Non-US citizens or non-US permanent residents cannot act as a cosigner.
Although we are not able to assist with finding a cosigner, it is common to ask close friends or family members.
If you do not have a cosigner you will want to explore lenders that do not require a cosigner.
8) The Application Process
Before applying for a private student loan, you should know exactly how much you need to borrow. To do this, review the financial aid award letter sent to you by your school. Next, find a loan that meets your needs. You can use our Loan Comparison Tool to help you find a loan that suits you.
You will need to submit your application to the lender. Most international students studying in the United States are required to have a US co-signer. After you have completed your part of the student loan application, your co-signer will need to complete their part of the application.
After submission you will be sent documents relating to your loan application. Follow any instructions carefully, and ensure that you (and your cosigner) sign and return the documents in a timely manner.
When your lender has received and approved all of the documents the money is transferred directly to your school/university, and you will receive your loan proceeds from them once they have been applied to your student account.
9) Repaying your International Student Loan
The interest rate and repayment terms will depend on the loan option and lender you select.
When selecting a lender you will need to review the terms or contact the lender directly with any specific questions. If you go with a lender that requires a cosigner the interest rate is calculated based on factors including your cosigner’s creditworthiness.
If a lender does not require a cosigner the interest and repayment rates are established in a different way. For example, with MPOWER, the interest and repayment is determined based on other factors. While they do not require a credit score, they do need to review a detailed credit report to verify payment history and good standing.
10) Applying for an international student loan before being accepted to a school
It is possible to begin the loan application process prior to being accepted to your school, however, you will need to be accepted with your student visa to finalize the loan. The first step is to find a lender; see if one is available at your college or university.
We hope you’ve found these 10 things you need to know about international student loans useful for your plans to study in the USA.
For more information check out our posts on 5 international student loan terms you need to know and Student loan repayment explained.