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There are several types of U.S. visas available to temporary workers and their family members. One type, the H4 visa, is available to dependents of H-1B visa holders.
An H4 visa allows spouses and children under 21 years of age to accompany those with an H-1B visa to the U.S. and remain with them for the duration of their stay. While this visa doesn’t allow dependents to work, they can attend college. But they won’t be able to qualify for federal financial aid.
However, there are other options for getting school funding, including private student loans. This guide explains how to get a student loan with an H4 visa.
In this guide:
- What type of student loans are available to H4 visa holders?
- Lenders offering student loans to H4 visa holders
- How to get a student loan as an H4 visa holder
- Student loans for international students
- Can H4 visa holders use other forms of financial aid?
What type of student loans are available to H4 visa holders?
Generally, federal student loans should always be considered first when students are borrowing money for their education. Unfortunately, the Department of Education has a list of non-U.S. citizens that are eligible for federal financial aid, and H4 visa holders are not included in that list.
- U.S. national or permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C (also known as a green card)
- An Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) showing one of these statuses:
- Asylum granted
- Cuban-Haitian entrant
- Hold a T nonimmigrant status or T-visa or your parent has a T-1 nonimmigrant status
- A “battered immigrant-qualified alien” who is a victim of a spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident or are the child of a person with this status
- A citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau
Without federal student loans, H4 visa holders will need to turn to private student loans instead.
While not all private lenders offer student loans specifically to H4 visa holders, there are a few that extend loans to non-citizens. In most cases, you’ll need a cosigner that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify if you don’t have a U.S. credit history.
Lenders offering student loans to H4 visa holders
Finding lenders that offer private student loans for H4 visa holders may be challenging but there is at least one company that does this. That company is Stilt.
Student loans for immigrants and the underserved
- Considers more than just your credit score when determining eligibility
- Spouses can also apply for a loan and use those funds for your education expenses
- Checking your rate won’t impact your credit
Note: Stilt is only available in AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, MA, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI.
Stilt is a fintech company founded in 2015 that provides financial services to immigrants and underserved populations. This San Francisco-based company promotes financial inclusion by offering loans to a variety of visa holders, including those with H-1B status and their H4 visa dependents.
With Stilt, H-1B visa holders can cosign loans for their H4 visa spouses or apply for loans directly in their name. Decisions are processed in as little as 24 hours and loan funds can be disbursed within one business day of approval.
Stilt can disburse loans to the school if requested, though it normally disburses loans to the borrower. So if your spouse is taking out a loan on your behalf, the money will go to the bank account they provide on the loan application. You can then use the money to pay your higher education expenses.
There are no prepayment penalties for Stilt loans for H4 visa holders, though you may be required to pay an origination fee. You can check your rates online with a soft credit check. Loans are generally offered for the borrower’s visa term, with a maximum loan term of 36 months.
There are limits on how much you can borrow. The maximum loan limit per person is $35,000. Cosigning borrowers obtaining student loans for H4 visa holders have the same responsibilities as cosigners for other student loans. That means they’re equally liable for the debt, even if they’re taking the loan out for someone else.
How to get a student loan as an H4 visa holder
If you’re an H4 visa holder, the process for getting student loans isn’t that different from applying for private loans as a U.S. citizen. The difference lies in the type of information you’ll need to provide to the lender and who can act as a cosigner on your behalf.
First, you’ll need to find a lender that accepts H4 visa holders as borrowers. Online lenders are a good place to start your search, as there may be more flexibility in qualification requirements.
For example, when applying for an H4 visa student loan, you may need to provide your:
- H4 visa status and verifying documentation
- Address and phone number
- Date of birth
- Bank account information
As mentioned, private lenders that extend student loans to H4 visa holders may require a cosigner. In the case of H4 visa holders, their spouse (or parent) may act as a cosigner if the lender allows it.
If someone with H-1B visa status is able to cosign a student loan for an H4 visa holder, the lender may consider their employment history, income, and credit history, if applicable. These criteria are similar to what a lender would consider if a U.S. citizen is required as a cosigner instead.
For example, as mentioned above, Stilt is a private lender that helps H4 visa holders get education funding. Those with H-1B visa status can cosign loans for their H4 visa dependents or apply for loans directly.
Student loans for international students
While the list of lenders that specifically offer loans to H4 visa holders is short, there are a number of private lenders who work with international students. For example, some of the top lenders that offer student loans for international students include Discover, Ascent, College Ave, and MPOWER Financing.
Loan options for international students include undergraduate and graduate loans, as well as loans for medical school, law school, and MBA programs. Whether you need a cosigner and/or a U.S. Social Security number to apply will vary by lender. Each lender is also different with regards to loan limits, interest rates, fees, and repayment terms.
Learn more about student loans for international students.
Can H4 visa holders use other forms of financial aid?
Scholarships and grants can provide financial relief for H4 visa holders who may be unable to qualify for student loans. These funds generally do not have to be paid back.
The issue, however, is finding scholarship and grant programs that accept applications from H4 visa students. Again, federal grants are usually out of the question. You may, however, be able to find grants or scholarships offered by a school or at the state level.
Whether you qualify for scholarships and grants as an H4 visa holder may depend on whether you meet the definition of an international student. If you’re looking for scholarships or grants at the university level, then the school may have a specific definition or set of criteria you need to meet. An F1 visa status may automatically qualify you as an international student, for example, but you may need to meet other conditions to receive aid if you have an H4 visa.
The best place to look for scholarships and grants to start is your school’s financial aid office or international student office. They may be able to provide you with a list of programs you can apply for.
You can also search online for scholarships and grants offered through nonprofits or private organizations. When comparing scholarship and grant options as an H4 student, pay attention to:
- Which visa statuses are allowed
- GPA and other academic requirements
- Available funding
- Application deadlines
- Any special requirements, such as enrollment in a particular degree program
Aside from scholarships and grants, H4 visa holders may also research personal loans as a way to pay for college. There are lenders that offer personal loans to non-citizens who can meet income and credit score requirements. The money can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books and other supplies necessary to complete a degree.
Author: Rebecca Lake