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Student Loans

Refinance International Student Loans

You might have student loans if you’re an international student studying in the United States. Refinancing your loans can help you secure a lower interest rate and save thousands of dollars. It’s usually simple: pick a lender and apply for the loan. However, you have to take additional steps to refinance international student loans.

International students often need to build credit history or find a cosigner to get approved. Depending on the state of your credit, you might be able to apply right away, or you may need to take additional steps before you do. Here’s how the process works. 

4 options for refinancing international student loans

Refinancing student loans as an international student can be challenging. It’s often difficult to meet lenders’ eligibility requirements due to limited credit history, no U.S.-based cosigner, and visa status. We’ve reviewed the eligibility requirements of more than 25 lenders to identify the top student loan refinance lenders. Here are four worth considering for international students looking to refinance student loans.

Click the lender’s name in the table below to jump to our review of its student loan refinance options for international students.

LenderBest forEditorial rating (out of 5)What you need to know
CredibleBest marketplace4.8Check your eligibility with multiple lenders and no credit impact
SoFiBest online lender4.9Comprehensive online refinancing experience for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or non-permanent resident aliens
EarnestBest skip-a-payment benefit4.9Flexible repayment options
MPOWER FinancingBest for its international focus3.8Specializes in financing for international students

Credible: Best marketplace

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Check your eligibility with multiple lenders
  • No credit impact or fees
  • User-friendly platform

Credible stands out for its marketplace, allowing international students to check their eligibility with multiple lenders from one location. It’s ideal for borrowers who wish to compare rates and terms from various lenders. This approach empowers borrowers to make informed decisions by easily comparing actual offers.

The transparent, streamlined process available through Credible’s application simplifies the often-complex refinancing experience. If you find an offer you like, Credible will inform you of the next steps to apply with that lender.


SoFi: Best online lender

LendEDU rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Competitive rates and discounts
  • Large library of educational content
  • Membership perks, including career services

SoFi offers a comprehensive online refinancing experience for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or non-permanent resident aliens. Its platform suits tech-savvy international students seeking an efficient, digital-first refinancing process.

It’s an excellent choice for competitive rates and exclusive member benefits, including career services and financial advising to support you throughout your repayment period.


Earnest: Best skip-a-payment benefit

LendEDU rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Customize your repayment schedule
  • Skip 1 payment per year without penalty
  • Precision pricing for tailored rates

Earnest stands out for its repayment flexibility for eligible U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In addition to choosing your payment amount and whether to make biweekly or monthly payments, you can adjust your payment date in the middle of your term and skip one payment per year without fees.

This flexibility can benefit international borrowers facing uncertain financial situations. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score; you can do it online in just two minutes.


MPOWER: Best for its international focus

LendEDU rating: 3.8 out of 5

  • Specializes in financing for international students
  • A U.S. credit history is not required
  • Release your cosigner and collateral

MPOWER’s entire model exists to provide financing solutions for international borrowers. You may be eligible if you: 

  • Live in the U.S.
  • Have been employed for at least three months in a full-time role postgraduation 
  • Have a valid visa or are a DACA recipient, U.S. citizen, refugee, or asylum seeker with two or more years of work authorization

You’re not required to have a U.S. credit history, cosigner, or collateral. MPOWER loans quality for employer matching programs and help you build a U.S. credit history with on-time payments.


How to refinance as an international student 

Refinancing student loans is straightforward, but you might need to complete extra steps as an international student. Here’s how it works.

  1. Find the right lender: Many lenders require that borrowers are U.S. citizens or legal residents, which makes it challenging for international students to refinance loans. As you refinance international student loans, consider lenders from the list above that work with international students. 
  2. Check your credit score: Lenders check your credit score to determine loan eligibility. As an international student, you might not have a U.S. credit score. Check whether you have a credit report at AnnualCreditReport. If you don’t have one, consider taking steps to build credit, such as applying for a secured credit card, before applying.
  3. Gather your documentation: You typically need proof of your visa status and proof of identification to apply for a loan as an international student. Ensure you have a copy of those official documents before completing the application. 
  4. Find a cosigner: Some lenders require that international applicants have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or resident. If you’re applying with a lender with that requirement, talk with your cosigner before applying. 
  5. Complete the application: Fill out the loan application to refinance your student loans. Complete the questions and provide the required documentation. 
  6. Compare rates and terms: If you apply with multiple lenders, compare rates and terms to find the best deal. Lower interest rates and minimal fees can help you save money as you repay your loan. 
  7. Finalize the loan: Once you select the loan, finalize the application by signing the paperwork. You can sign electronically with most lenders. 
  8. Continue making payments: While you wait for your loan to finalize, continue making payments to your current lender to avoid late fees and other penalties. 

How to qualify for international student loan refinancing 

As an international student, you have unique considerations for refinancing student loans. You need proof of your visa and must find a lender that works with international borrowers. Plus, you might want to ask a cosigner to apply with you. If you don’t have a credit score, you might need to build it before you complete the application. 

ChallengeSolution
Find a lenderResearch options before applying
Prove your visa statusPrepare documentation before applying
Pick a cosignerConsider U.S. family members or trusted friends
Establish credit historyApply for a U.S. credit card and get credit for rent payments

Find a lender

As an international student, finding a lender for refinancing can be difficult. Many lenders require borrowers to have U.S. citizenship or residency. However, some lenders—such as MPOWER—specialize in loans for international students. Research lenders, and call to confirm if you have any questions. 

Prove your visa status

Most lenders require proof of citizenship, residency, or visa status. As an international student, you’ll likely need to provide evidence of your visa status. Make sure you have a copy of your visa before you apply. Common visas include the following.

  • J-1
  • H-1B
  • E-2
  • O-1
  • TN

You might also need proof of a U.S. bank account, current bill payments, and employment history. Check the requirements with your lender, and gather the documents before you apply. 

Pick a cosigner

Cosigners guarantee a loan. Your cosigner is responsible for making payments if you default on the loan. It’s a significant responsibility, so most borrowers ask family members to cosign. But that can be challenging when your family members aren’t U.S. citizens or residents. 

If you need a cosigner to refinance international student loans, consider a trusted friend. You might ask a family friend, roommate, or best friend to cosign if you don’t have any family members who meet the criteria. 

Establish credit history

Most lenders require borrowers to have a credit history. If you don’t have one, you can take steps to fix it. However, it might postpone your refinancing application. You can take one or all of the following steps to establish a credit history in preparation for a loan: 

  • Apply for a U.S. credit card. You can use a credit card to build credit by making on-time payments. Secured cards are an excellent option for building credit as an international student. 
  • Get credit for rent payments. If your rent payments don’t appear on your credit report, consider setting up a service to report rent payments to the credit bureaus on your behalf. Examples include Self and RentReporters. 
  • Become an authorized user. You can build credit as an authorized user on a credit card. You can ask a family member or close friend if they’re willing to add you to their card as an authorized user. 

Steps for international students who want to build a U.S. credit history: Our expert weighs in

Erin Kinkade

CFP®

If the option is available, I recommend applying for a credit card with a small limit—for example, $500—and using the card for basic, necessary expenses. Then pay off the balance in full each month. If the student is renting a home or apartment, take advantage of opportunities to have rent payments reflected on your credit report. I also recommend being responsible with purchases and understanding the U.S. financial system regarding credit and borrowing. Depending on which country the student is from, the U.S. financial system could be much different from what they’re accustomed to.

What to do if you’re denied an international student loan refinance 

If you apply for a loan and the lender rejects your application, you have other options. Depending on why you want to refinance your loan, there are different steps you can take to achieve your underlying goal. Consider these alternatives to refinancing.

  • If you want a lower monthly payment: Most people refinance loans to secure a lower monthly payment. If you struggle to afford your current payments, try cutting your expenses. Consider canceling monthly subscriptions, no longer dining out, spending less on gifts, and pausing travel to make more room in your budget. It’s not always possible to cut expenses, but if you can, it might help. 
  • If you need to pause payments: Contact your lender to ask about hardship programs. For example, some lenders allow borrowers to pause payments during unemployment. 
  • If you want to simplify the repayment process: If you’re scheduling payments each month or making payments to multiple lenders, consider setting up automatic payments from a U.S. bank account to simplify the process.  

FAQ 

How can refinancing my international student loan affect my interest rate?

Refinancing your international student loan could lower your interest rate, especially if your financial situation has improved since you first took out a loan.

If you’ve built a solid credit history in the U.S., secured stable employment, or improved your income, you may qualify for a lower rate through refinancing. Lower interest rates can reduce the overall cost of the loan and decrease monthly payments.

However, comparing offers from various lenders is essential to ensure you’re getting the best rate possible for your circumstances. 

What happens to your refinanced student loan if you move out of the United States?

If you move out of the U.S. after refinancing your student loan, you must still repay the loan according to the agreed terms. The terms don’t change based on your geographic location.

However, depending on the lender’s policies and international money transfer fees, making payments from abroad may become more challenging. Make sure you communicate with your lender about any relocation plans and discuss potential implications or arrangements for managing your loan payments from abroad.

Who can cosign a refinance international student loan?

A cosigner for a refinance international student loan is a creditworthy individual who agrees to share the responsibility of the loan. In most cases, the cosigner is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a strong credit history. This could be a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

The cosigner’s creditworthiness can be critical in helping the borrower qualify for refinancing, especially if the borrower has a limited credit history in the U.S.

Can I release a cosigner when refinancing an international student loan?

Yes, in many cases, you can release a cosigner when refinancing an international student loan, but it depends on the lender’s policies.

Generally, cosigner release becomes an option after the primary borrower demonstrates financial reliability over a specific period. This often involves making a series of on-time payments and meeting certain credit and income criteria.

Review the lender’s terms regarding cosigner release and understand the requirements you must meet before applying if this is an important factor in your decision.