Federal student loans offer a number of advantages when compared to private loans, but are limited to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. That means for many international students, a private student loan is the best way to pay for college.
International students have more options than ever to choose a loan that's right for their unique needs. We've compiled the best international student loans to help you narrow down the choices. These loans don't require borrowers to have a Social Security number (SSN), collateral, and two we like don't even require a co-signer.
Best International Student Loans
MPOWER Financing: Best for Undergraduate Students Without a Co-signer
Many international students don't have the option of having a U.S.-based co-signer and borrowing in their own country may require collateral. There are two major financing companies filling this gap by offering private student loans that don't require a co-signer. The most widely available provider is MPOWER Financing.
MPOWER private student loans are available to international undergraduate and graduate students within two years of graduating or about to begin a one or two-year program at one of 350 approved schools in the U.S. or Canada.
Students make interest-only payments while in school for the first six months and for six months after graduation. After this time period, borrowers make full repayments (interest and principal) until the loan is paid off. And while there's no application or prepayment fee, there is a 5% origination fee on every loan.
MPOWER international student loan rates after all discounts as of August 2020:
- Undergraduate fixed APR: 14.98%
- Graduate fixed APR: 12.94%
- Repayment terms: 10 years
- Loan amounts: $2,001–$50,000
What makes MPOWER the best student loan for borrowers without a co-signer is the availability of loans for undergraduate students and access to free visa support letters, immigration resources, and scholarship opportunities.
Borrowers can also take advantage of up to three interest rate discounts:
- 0.50% for enrolling in autopay
- 0.50% after six on-time payments with autopay
- Another 0.50% for reporting proof of graduation and employment
Read the full review: MPOWER Financing Student Loans
Prodigy Finance: Best for Graduate Students Without a Co-signer
Prodigy Finance is the other company offering private student loans to international students without a co-signer, but it's only available to students seeking a graduate degree in business, science, technology, engineering, math, law, public policy, or healthcare.
Students have three repayment term options and payments are automatically deferred while in school, but you can make payments anytime without penalties or fees. There are no application or prepayment fees but Prodigy does charge a 4% administration fee on every loan.
Prodigy Finance international student loan details as of August 2020:
- Variable APR: Starting at 5.6%
- Repayment terms: 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
- Loan amounts: $15,000 up to 80% of cost of attendance at most U.S. schools
What makes Prodigy attractive for eligible students is the simple interest rates it offers—interest doesn't compound throughout the life of the loan which saves borrowers money. Prodigy also reports payments to credit bureau Experian and this helps students build credit in the U.S.
On the other hand, Prodigy uses a variable interest rate model that consists of a fixed margin rate plus a variable base rate determined by the three-month LIBOR, so your interest rate may fluctuate throughout the life of your loan. The average annual percentage rate (APR) for student loans is 6.7%.
Read the full review: Prodigy Finance Student Loans
Citizens One: Best for Graduate Students With a Co-signer
Citizens One offers loans to international students who have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. There are no application, origination, or prepayment fees, and borrowers can choose from four in-school repayment options and three terms.
Citizen One international student loan details as of December 2020:
- Graduate Variable APR: 1.39% - 10.98%
- Graduate Fixed APR: 4.39% - 11.53%
- Repayment terms: 5, 10, or 15 years
- Graduate loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance or $350,000 total aggregate, depending on the degree
Citizens One offers some of the lowest interest rates available, especially for its graduate and professional loans. The lender also offers medical residency and bar study loans making it a more affordable choice for graduate students who have a co-signer.
Borrowers can lower their rates with a 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in autopay and another 0.25% reduction if the student or co-signer has a Citizens Bank account or loan. Unfortunately, international students can't take advantage of other features Citizens One offers, like multi-year approval or co-signer release.
Read the full review: Citizens Bank Student Loans
Ascent Student Loans: Best Interest Rates
Ascent student loans are available to international students with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. There are no application, origination, or prepayment fees and you can choose from four in-school repayment options and three repayment terms, up to 15 years for variable-rate loans or 10 years for fixed-rate loans.
Ascent cosigned loan rates in Jan. 2021 with all possible discounts:
- Variable APR: 2.46% - 12.41%
- Fixed APR: 3.34% - 13.58%
- Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance or $200,000 total aggregate, whichever is lower
Co-signed loans are eligible for a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay and borrowers can get a 1% cashback reward once they graduate from the degree program for which the loan was used to fund. Ascent also provides a free interactive financial literacy course that students are required to take before their loan is funded.
There are unfortunately some features Ascent offers that international students aren't eligible for including co-signer release, monthly scholarship drawings, and its referral program.
Read the full review: Ascent Student Loans
Discover: Best for DACA Recipients
Discover offers private student loans to international students who are attending an eligible U.S. college or university and have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Loans are fee-free and students have the option of four in-school repayment options but only one term.
Discover international student loan details as of December 2020:
- Undergraduate Variable APR: 1.24% - 11.99%
- Undergraduate Fixed APR: 4.24% - 12.99%
- Repayment terms: 15 years
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
Students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are unique in that they live in the U.S. and can apply for a Social Security Number, but aren't eligible for federal financial aid. This means many are already building credit but still have to turn to private student loans to fund their education.
Discover is one of the only lenders offering multi-year approval to students with or without an SSN. This helps students avoid multiple hard credit inquiries so they can continue to build credit. Discover also offers a 1% cash reward for good grades and a 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in autopay.
Read the full review: Discover Student Loans
Can International Students Get Loans?
Before applying for a private student loan, non-U.S. citizens should check to see if they are eligible for certain types of federal financial aid. Certain groups of people are considered "eligible noncitizens" and may qualify for federal student loans:
- U.S. nationals (including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island)
- U.S. permanent residents with a permanent resident card, resident alien card, or alien registration receipt card, also known as a green card
- Anyone with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing that you're a refugee, asylum seeker, Cuban-Haitian entrant, conditional entrant (before April 1, 1980), or parolee
- Anyone with a T non-immigrant status (T-visa) or who has a parent with a T-visa
- Anyone considered a “battered immigrant-qualified alien”
If you don't fall into one of these categories you can check with your country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S., or with the appropriate government office in your country to see if they offer any scholarship or aid opportunities.
You may also be eligible for financial aid from the state or college in which you're studying. Only when you've exhausted those options should you look into private student loans.
Where Can You Get an International Student Loan?
Private student loans for international students are available from two types of lenders: banks and non-bank lending companies.
Student loans from banks offer international students the convenience of doing their banking and student loans all in one place. Additionally, banks like Citizens give 0.25% interest rate discounts to borrowers who bank with them. The downside is that you'll need a co-signer to be eligible.
Non-bank lenders offer international students more flexibility. MPOWER and Prodigy Finance look at your career path and income potential to qualify you for a student loan without a co-signer or collateral. And because these companies operate completely online, they tend to have very user-friendly websites.
Who Qualifies for An International Student Loan?
International students must meet the eligibility requirements required by the lender. In most cases, this includes being enrolled at least half time at an eligible school and having a creditworthy co-signer.
DACA recipients with a Social Security Number have more options than students without. Student loan companies like College Ave and Earnest offer competitive rates and terms, but require international borrowers to have a co-signer and SSN.
A Recap of Our Picks for Best International Student Loans
There is no overall best international student loan. The loan that is right for you will depend on your program of study, access to a creditworthy co-signer, and your residency or visa status.
- MPower Financing: Good for students without access to an eligible co-signer, but only available at 350 schools and you''ll pay higher than average interest rates.
- Prodigy Finance: Good for students without access to an eligible co-signer enrolled in a STEM, healthcare, or public policy graduate program at more than 600 eligible U.S. schools. There's no fixed-rate loan option which means this loan could get expensive over time.
- Citizens One: Competitive fixed and variable interest rates on top of a variety of professional degree loans make this a good option for graduate students with access to an eligible co-signer.
- Ascent Student Loans: Competitive interest rates for international students with an eligible co-signer, but lack of options when it comes to choosing in-school repayments and terms.
- Discover: One of the only student loan lenders to make multi-year approval available to international students who meet standard eligibility requirements. That's good for DACA recipients looking to avoid annual hard credit inquiries to build their credit score.
Research for this article encompassed more than fifteen private student loan lenders of undergraduate 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 cosigner release, the availability of a parent loan, and the ability to refinance.
United States Department of Education: Federal Student Aid. "Who Gets Aid." Accessed July 15, 2020.
MPOWER Financing. "Get a Loan." Accessed July 31, 2020.
Prodigy Finance. "Student Loans." Accessed Jan. 24, 2021.
Citizens One. "Graduate Loans Overview." Accessed Dec. 8, 2020.
Ascent. "Can students that are Non-U.S. citizens apply?" Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.
Ascent. "Cosigned student loans." Jan. 25, 2021.
Discover. "Private Student Loans." Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.
Federal Student Aid. "Eligibility for Non-U.S. Citizens." Accessed July 15, 2020.