Best International Student Loans

Earnest offers the best loans for international students coming to the U.S.A.

We recommend the best products through an independent review process, and advertisers do not influence our picks. We may receive compensation if you visit partners we recommend. Read our advertiser disclosure for more info.

Federal student loans offer a number of advantages when compared to private loans, but they are limited to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. So, 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 your list of choices. These loans don't require borrowers to have a Social Security number (SSN) or collateral, and a couple we like don't even require a co-signer.

Best International Student Loans of February 2023

  • Best Overall: Earnest
  • Best for DACA Recipients: Juno
  • Student Loan Marketplace: Credible
  • Best Interest Rates: Ascent
  • Best for Graduate Students With a Co-Signer: Citizens Bank
  • Best Big Bank: Discover
  • Best Credit Union: PenFed
  • Best for Undergraduate Students Without a Co-Signer: MPower
  • Best for Graduate Students Without a Co-Signer: Prodigy

Want to see a broader selection of student loan options? See our picks for the best overall student loan lenders here.

Best Overall : Earnest

Investopedia's Rating
4.9

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offers a nine-month grace period

  • Allows you to skip a payment once a year

  • No fees whatsoever

Cons
  • No co-signer release program

  • No loans for part-time undergraduate students

  • Doesn't offer loans in Nevada

Why We Chose It

Earnest offers a wide variety of student loans, including some specialized graduate loans and refinance loans. International students can apply if they have an SSN or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), a physical address in the U.S., and a co-signer who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

The lender's interest rates are competitive, and you'll be able to borrow up to the cost of attendance. When it comes to repayment, there's a lot of flexibility, as Earnest allows you to adjust your term down to the month. You'll also get a nine-month grace period after you graduate rather than the standard six-month period.

If you struggle to keep up with your payments, you can get up to 12 months of forbearance or a modified plan that may involve a lower interest rate, interest-only payments, or an extended term.

Earnest doesn't charge any fees, aside from interest, and it offers a 0.25% discount on your interest rate if you set up automatic payments. For more information, see the full Earnest Student Loans Review.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: If you have a co-signer, you can opt to start making full monthly payments while you're still in school.
  • Deferred: Full payments are deferred while you're in school and for nine months after you graduate.
  • Fixed: You'll make a fixed $25 monthly payment while you're in school and during the nine-month grace period, after which you'll make full monthly payments.
  • Interest-only: If you have a co-signer, you can pay only the interest that accrues each month while you're in school and during the grace period. After that, you'll make full monthly payments.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Available in all states and the District of Columbia (excluding Nevada).
  • Your co-signer must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. 
  • You must have a physical address in the U.S.
  • You must have an SSN or ITIN.
  • Your co-signer must have a credit score of 650 or above and a credit history of three years or longer.
  • Your co-signer must have an annual income of at least $35,000.
  • If you're an undergraduate student, you must be enrolled at least half-time.
  • The school you're attending must be a Title IV-qualified, not-for-profit, four-year institution.

Best for DACA Recipients : Juno

Investopedia's Rating
4.9

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Can help you qualify for lower interest rates

  • No fees and no commitment

  • Available for DACA and international students

Cons
  • Limited partners

  • The approval process can take longer

  • Must enroll to view potential rates

Why We Chose It

Juno doesn't offer student loans on its own. Rather, it gathers large groups of prospective borrowers and gets private student loan companies to compete for their business. This approach can help you secure a lower interest rate than you could get on your own—Juno boasts a median lower rate of 1.6%. 

As a DACA recipient or an international student, you can sign up for free to get started. There's no cost or commitment, and you also don't need to undergo a credit check. Juno will pool you together with a group of other potential borrowers and ask its partner lenders to submit bids for your business. Then, it'll select the best bid and share the deal with you. If you agree, you'll submit an application directly with the lender and get the features it offers.

With this approach, Juno can potentially help you save money, but it only works with a handful of lenders, so you might miss out on a better deal elsewhere if you don't shop around. The actual terms for your loan will depend on the lender Juno chooses for you, so you may not get exactly what you want. 

Repayment Options

Repayment options will vary depending on which lender Juno chooses for you, but you may be able to choose from:

  • Deferred payments: Make no payments until nine months after graduation; at that point, full interest-and-principle payments begin.
  • Fixed payment: Make fixed $25 monthly payments until nine months after graduation.
  • Interst-only payment: Make payments only to cover the interest that accrues on the loan until nine months after graduation.
  • Full payment: Full interest and principal payments start nine months after the loan is disbursed.
Eligibility Requirements
  • You must be a past, present, or future student of a Title IV accredited, not-for-profit university based in the U.S.
  • Loans are available in all 50 states and D.C.
  • Additional borrower and co-signer requirements will depend on individual partner lenders.

Student Loan Marketplace : Credible


Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Allows you to compare rates from multiple lenders

  • Doesn't require an application fee or a hard credit check

  • Partners with eight different lenders

Cons
  • Does not partner with all major lenders

  • Borrowers will need to do additional research

  • Terms will vary by lender

Why We Chose It

If you're not certain about your eligibility, Credible makes it easy to get pre-qualified with multiple lenders at once. Then, you can compare rate quotes and terms to determine the right fit for you. 

You can generally find a loan that covers the total cost of attendance at your school, but because the interest rates, terms, and other features will vary by lender, you'll need to do some extra legwork to research your options to find the right fit. 

Credible doesn't charge a fee for its service, and its partner lenders don't charge origination fees or prepayment penalties. However, they may charge late fees. They may also offer various interest rate discounts, which can be worth exploring. For more information, see the full Credible Student Loans Review.

Repayment Options

Repayment options vary depending on the lender you choose, but you may have access to the following:

  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments, which save the most money over the course of the loan. 
  • Fixed: Fixed payment plans allow you to pay a fixed amount every month, such as $25, before beginning full payments. 
  • Interest-only: If you choose an interest-only repayment plan, you make monthly payments to offset the interest that accrues while you’re in school before beginning full payments.
  • Deferred: If a lender offers a deferred payment plan, you can postpone making any payments until after you graduate. Following graduation there is typically a six-month grace period after graduation before payments are required, and then full payments begin.
Eligibility Requirements
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international student with a U.S. address and a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Some partner lenders may have state restrictions.
  • You or your co-signer must have a credit score of 670 or higher.
  • Additional requirements may vary depending on the lender.

Best Interest Rates : Ascent

Investopedia's Rating
4.5

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Relatively flexible repayment terms

  • Provides a 1% cash-back graduation reward

  • Offers referral bonuses

Cons
  • Loans aren't available to part-time students

  • International students must have a co-signer

Why We Chose It

Ascent offers several student loan options for international students, particularly for graduate studies. The lender offers a wide range of repayment terms, which can vary based on your loan type, and borrowers can postpone payments after graduation for up to 9 or 36 months, depending on the loan program.

In addition to a 0.25% autopay discount on your interest rate, the lender offers a cash-back reward worth 1% of your loan balance when you graduate and meet certain requirements. And if you refer friends to Ascent, you can get up to $525 for each one when they're approved and receive their loan funds. They'll also get a $100 bonus.

Before you apply, you can get pre-qualified to assess your eligibility. Remember, though, that as an international student, you'll need a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and Ascent does not offer co-signer release. For more information, see the full Ascent Student Loans Review.

Postponing payments won't postpone accruing interest, so it's best to start making monthly payments as soon as you are able to limit interest charges.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments, which save the most money over the course of the loan. 
  • Deferred: You can defer payments while you're in school and during a grace period after you graduate; after that, full payments begin.
  • Interest-only: You can opt to pay interest as it accrues while you're in school and during your grace period, after which you'll make full monthly payments.
  • Fixed: You can choose to pay a fixed $25 monthly payment while you're in school and during your grace period. After that, you'll make full monthly payments.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Loans are available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.
  • International students must have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Co-signers must have a minimum annual income of $24,000 for the current and previous year.
  • Co-signers must meet a minimum credit score, which Ascent does not disclose.

Best for Graduate Students With a Co-Signer : Citizens Bank

Investopedia's Rating
4.4

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offers a loyalty discount for existing customers

  • Allows borrowers to get multi-year approval

  • Co-signer release is available 

Cons
  • No pre-qualification option

  • Not available for part-time students

  • Relatively low aggregate limits

Why We Chose It

Citizens Bank offers several different types of graduate student loans, making it easier to find one specialized to your needs. In addition to a 0.25% interest rate discount for automatic payments, the lender also offers a 0.25% rate discount if you or your co-signer has a qualifying Citizens Bank account at the time of the application.

Additionally, the lender offers multi-year approval, so you don't have to submit an official application every year. You'll need a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to get approved, but you can get them removed once you meet certain requirements. 

If you're attending an expensive school, you may run into some problems with the bank's aggregate limits, which vary based on the type of loan. Repayment terms aren't as flexible as some lenders, but you'll still get a few options. For more information, see the full Citizens Bank Student Loans Review.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments, which save the most money over the course of the loan. 
  • Deferred: You can defer payments while you're in school and during the six-month grace period after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time status.
  • Interest-only: You can opt to make interest-only payments while you're in school and during your grace period, after which you'll make full monthly payments.
  • Immediate: You can choose to start making full monthly payments shortly after your loans are disbursed.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Loans are available in all 50 states.
  • International students must have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution.
  • You cannot have any prior student loan defaults.
  • Your co-signer must have a reasonably strong credit history, though the lender doesn't provide specifics.

Best Big Bank : Discover

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offers a 1% cash reward for good grades

  • Rewards interest-only payments

  • No fees whatsoever

Cons
  • No pre-qualification available

  • Only offers one repayment term

  • No co-signer release program

Why We Chose It

Discover offers undergraduate loans and a wide array of graduate student loans, even to international students who have a creditworthy co-signer who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Unfortunately, you won't be able to release that co-signer later on unless you refinance the loan with a different lender.

In addition to a 0.25% interest rate discount for automatic payments, the lender offers a 0.35% interest rate discount if you choose to make interest-only payments while you're in school. You can also get a reward worth 1% of your loan balance if you achieve a 3.0 GPA or its equivalent. There are no fees whatsoever on Discover's student loans.

That said, Discover only offers one repayment term to its borrowers, which is 15 years for undergraduate loans and 20 years for graduate loans. You can borrow up to the total cost of attendance, but Discover may set limits on the total amount you can borrow—the lender doesn't disclose a cap publicly. Loans aren't available to part-time students.

If you're unsure about your eligibility, you won't be able to pre-qualify to assess your options; you’ll have to submit a full application. For more information, see the full Discover Student Loans Review.

Be sure to review the requirements for Discover's good grades reward to ensure your eligibility. Qualifying criteria can vary for undergraduate and graduate students.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments, which save the most money over the course of the loan. 
  • Deferred payments: You can defer full payments while you're in school and during a six-month period after you graduate or fall below half-time status.
  • Interest-only payments: While you're in school and during your grace period, you'll pay only the amount of interest that accrues each month. After that, you'll make full monthly payments.
  • Fixed payments: You can opt to make a fixed $25 monthly payment while you're in school and during your six-month grace period, after which you'll make full principal-and-interest payments.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Loans are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
  • International students must have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time in a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program (or another eligible program if you're pursuing a graduate, MBA, law, or health professions degree) at an eligible school.
  • You must be intending to get a degree. 
  • You must make satisfactory academic progress as defined by your college. 
  • You must be at least 16 years old at the time you apply. 

Best Credit Union : PenFed

Investopedia's Rating
3.8

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Provides a 1% cash-back graduation reward

  • Flexible repayment terms

  • Offers referral bonuses

Cons
  • Loans aren't available to part-time students

  • International students must have a co-signer

Why We Chose It

PenFed Credit Union doesn't offer in-school student loans, but the institution does partner with Ascent, which offers co-signed undergraduate and graduate loans for international students. As a result, all the terms would be the same as if you were to apply directly with Ascent. 

Ascent offers various repayment terms, which vary based on loan type. Depending on which loan you choose, you can postpone payments for up to 9 or 36 months after graduation.

On top of a 0.25% autopay discount on your interest rate, Ascent offers graduates a 1% cash-back reward based on their loan balance with the lender. You can also earn up to $525 when you refer a friend, and they can get a bonus, too.

To gauge your eligibility, get pre-qualified before you submit an application. For more information, see the full Ascent Student Loans Review.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments, which save the most money over the course of the loan. 
  • Deferred: You can defer payments while you're in school and during a grace period after you graduate.
  • Interest-only: You can opt to pay interest as it accrues while you're in school and during your grace period, after which you'll make full monthly payments.
  • Fixed: You can choose to pay a fixed $25 monthly payment while you're in school and during your grace period. After that, you'll make full monthly payments.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Loans are available in all 50 states.
  • International students must have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Co-signers must have a minimum annual income of $24,000 for the current and previous year.
  • Co-signers must meet a minimum credit score, which Ascent does not disclose.

Best for Undergraduate Students Without a Co-Signer : MPower

Investopedia's Rating
3.8

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • International students don't need a co-signer

  • Gives significant interest rate discounts

  • Doesn't require a credit score or history for approval

Cons
  • Only offers a single repayment term

  • Interest rates are high

  • Charges an origination fee and interest-only payments in school

Why We Chose It

While many lenders offer student loans to international students, most of them require a co-signer who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. That can be tough if you don't have loved ones who meet either of those requirements. With MPOWER, you can get approved without a co-signer or even a credit check.

That said, MPOWER's interest rates are higher than most lenders, so if you do have a co-signer who meets other lenders' requirements, you're likely better off applying with them elsewhere. Fortunately, MPOWER offers up to 1.50% in interest rate discounts, which you can maximize if you set up automatic payments, make six on-time payments on autopay, and graduate and get a job.

It's also important to note that the lender charges a 5% origination fee and requires interest-only payments while you're in school. What's more, there's no flexibility with repayment terms—all borrowers get 10 years. If you're attending a relatively pricey school or pursuing multiple degrees, you may have trouble with the lender's $100,000 lifetime limit. 

A lot of MPOWER's features aren't ideal, but if you don't have an eligible co-signer, it can be better than having no options at all. For more information, see the full MPOWER Financing Student Loans Review.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments, which save the most money over the course of the loan. 
  • Interest-only: MPOWER requires that you make interest-only payments while you're in school and during your six-month grace period, after which you'll make full monthly payments.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Loans are available to students attending select schools in the U.S. and Canada.
  • You can get approved if you're a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, DACA recipient, asylum seeker, refugee, or visa holder.
  • You'll need to maintain half-time enrollment at an eligible school.
  • You must be the age of majority in your state of residence. 
  • You need to be in your last two years of school or just starting a one- or two-year program.

Best for Graduate Students Without a Co-Signer : Prodigy

Investopedia's Rating
3.5

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • No co-signer required for international students

  • Can use loans at schools in 18 countries

Cons
  • Only available to graduate students

  • Interest rates are high and variable only

  • The lender charges an administrative fee

  • Only certain schools are eligible

Why We Chose It

If you're a graduate student who wants to study in the U.S. or another country, Prodigy Finance may be able to help. The lender offers loans for international students in 18 countries. However, only select schools are eligible. Also, Prodigy loans aren't available in 16 U.S. states.

The lender doesn't require a co-signer, which can be a huge plus for international students with no loved ones in the U.S. Loan terms are also relatively flexible. 

That said, you'll need to pay a 5% administrative fee, which is added to your loan when it's disbursed. Also, interest rates can be high, and they're variable only, which means they'll fluctuate over time with the market. There are no interest rate discounts. As a result, it may be better to consider other options if you have an established credit history or a co-signer with one. The high minimum loan amount can also be restrictive. 

For more information, see the full Prodigy Finance Student Loans Review.

Repayment Options
  • Full payment: Full interest-and-principle payments.
  • Deferred payments: Monthly payments are deferred until six months after your classes end.
Eligibility Requirements
  • You must be enrolled at a school and in a program the lender supports.
  • You must come from a country the lender supports.
  • You must be looking to study abroad.

Final Verdict

International students don't have as many options as citizens and permanent residents when it comes to financing their college education in the U.S. But among private lenders, there are several choices available. 

While options may be limited and expensive if you don't have a co-signer, having someone who can apply with you can make it easier to find a good deal. Take your time to shop around and compare multiple options before you decide to move forward, and don't be afraid to contact your school's financial aid office to find out about more ways you can pay for college.

Guide to Choosing the Best International Student Loan

How Do International Student Loans Work?

Most international students qualify only for private student loans, which have rates and terms that can vary wildly depending on the lender. 

Loans for international students often require a co-signer who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident—something that isn't necessarily a requirement for domestic students—but some lenders don't have that stipulation. 

To get started, you'll want to compare several lenders to determine the right fit. Many offer pre-qualification, which you can do with just a soft credit check that won't hurt your credit score, but others may require you to submit a full application to see what you qualify for.

Once you submit the application, the lender will review you and your co-signer's credit histories, income, and other factors to determine whether you qualify and what interest rate you'll receive. If you agree to the loan terms, the lender will typically disburse the loan proceeds directly to your school. If there are leftover funds, you may receive a check from your school for the difference.

International student loans differ from federal student loans in that they're typically credit-based and don't offer many of the same relief programs, such as loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans, and generous forbearance and deferment options.

How to Compare International Student Loans

As you shop around and compare different international student loan options, here are some of the features you'll want to watch out for:

  • APRs
  • Pre-qualification availability
  • Origination, administrative, and other fees
  • Co-signer requirements
  • Repayment terms and options
  • School eligibility
  • Loan amount minimums and limits
  • Discounts
  • Credit requirements and other eligibility criteria

How To Qualify for International Student Loans

Each lender has its own criteria for determining whether you qualify for an international student loan. If you're not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you likely don't have an established credit history in the country, so you'll typically need to rely on a co-signer for approval.

Potential factors lenders consider when you apply include:

  • Citizenship status
  • Credit score
  • Credit history
  • Annual income
  • Debt-to-income ratio

Some lenders may also look at your program and earning potential to determine your eligibility. If a lender offers a pre-qualification tool, this is an excellent way to get an idea of whether you qualify without submitting an official application.

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 nonimmigrant 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 cosigner 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 cosigner 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 cosigner.

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 they require international borrowers to have a cosigner and SSN.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected thousands of data points across 30 lenders—including loan types, interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that we help readers make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 02/01/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.  

Best International Student Loans

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Federal Student Aid. “Eligibility for Non-U.S. Citizens.”