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Student Loans

Student Loans for Immigrants

With nearly 30% of U.S. college students coming from immigrant families, there’s been an increased focus on creating financing solutions for these students. Federal student loans should be your first choice but are only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Private student loans are a common alternative if you have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or apply with a lender specializing in non-traditional student loans.

LenderBest forOur rating
Department of EducationFederal student loansNot rated
College AveU.S. citizen cosigners5/5
EarnestLarge loans4.7/5
CredibleComparison shopping4.6/5
MPOWERNo cosigners4.6/5

What kinds of student loans are available to immigrants?

You should always start with federal student loans when looking for student loans. These loans come with added benefits that are not available with private student loans.

However, eligibility for federal student loans is difficult for non-U.S. citizens. To be eligible, you’ll need to:

  • Be a U.S. national or U.S. permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C
  • Have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) showing “Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Cuban-Haitian Entrant,” “Conditional Entrant,” or “Parolee”
  • Hold a T nonimmigrant status or your parent must hold a T-1 nonimmigrant status
  • Be a “battered immigrant-qualified alien” who is a victim of abuse by your citizen or permanent resident spouse, or you’re a child of a person designated as such
  • Be a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau

The best way to confirm which federal student loans are available is to consult your school’s financial aid office. Also, keep in mind that undocumented students and students with DACA status are ineligible to apply for federal student aid. However, these students may still be eligible for state-funded loans or grants and school-specific aid.

If you don’t meet federal loan requirements, you’ll need to turn to private student loans. Several private lenders offer student loans to immigrants. Some offer loans that don’t require a cosigner (though they may charge a higher rate), while others require a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to cosign the loan.

Federal student loans for immigrants

Students interested in federal aid must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA. Non-citizens must enter their alien registration number (commonly called an “A number”) and Social Security number as part of the application process.

Eligible non-citizens can use the FAFSA to apply for the same federal aid as U.S. citizens. Below are the types of federal loans available.

LoanWhat to know
Direct Subsidized LoansFederal government pays the interest while you’re enrolled in school, during the grace period, and during deferment periods; no credit check required
Direct Unsubsidized LoansFederal government does not pay interest; no credit check required
Direct PLUS LoansFor graduate study or parents paying for child’s undergraduate study; must be creditworthy

The requirements to prove eligible non-citizen status may hinder some immigrants (both legal and undocumented) from applying for federal financial aid, as immigration status will be checked against a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database.

In addition, applicants may have to provide proof from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services that they intend to become citizens or permanent residents to qualify for financial aid.

Again, your best bet is to check with your school’s financial aid office to see what type of aid you might qualify for at the federal level before attempting to complete the FAFSA.

Private student loans for immigrants

For non-citizens who are not eligible for federal student loans, there are other options, such as obtaining a private student loan.

For most private lenders, a cosigner is required. This cosigner usually must be a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for a set amount of time.

However, there are student loan companies that offer loans to immigrants without the need for a cosigner.

MPOWER Financing

  • No cosigners, collateral, or credit history required
  • Available to students in the U.S. and Canada
  • 0.25% automatic payment discount

MPOWER Financing promotes financial inclusiveness by extending education loans to international students and DACA recipients. Loans offered through MPOWER don’t require borrowers to have collateral, a cosigner, or a credit history to qualify.

Students from more than 190 countries can apply and there are no restrictions on degree programs or fields of study. Loans range from $2,001 to $100,000 and feature low, fixed interest rates.

MPOWER offers interest rate reductions of up to 1.50% to borrowers who enroll in autopay, make six on-time payments through autopay, and provide proof of graduation and employment.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants

  • Must be an undergraduate or graduate student within two years of graduating or about to begin a 1- or 2-year program
  • Must attend an approved school in the U.S. or Canada
  • Must provide proof of identity and have a valid visa
  • Must provide pay stubs and/or proof of financial support

College Ave

  • Student loans for undergraduates, graduates, and parents
  • You choose your repayment term
  • No fees to apply

College Ave is our top-rated student loan lender and offers loans to international students with a valid U.S. Social Security number. All international students will be required to apply with a qualified cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Borrowers can choose from fixed or variable rate loans, with flexible repayment terms. Loans can be used to fund undergraduate or graduate study, including professional degree programs.

Payments can be deferred as long as the student is enrolled in school. There is a six-month grace period that applies after graduation or if the student falls below half-time enrollment.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants 

  • International students must have a valid U.S. Social Security number
  • A cosigner is required for all loans offered to international students
  • Cosigners must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Borrowers must be enrolled at an eligible school and be making satisfactory academic progress


  • Compare prequalified offers
  • Doesn’t affect your credit score

Credible is an online marketplace that lets you compare prequalified offers from lenders in its network. You can see your estimated rates with one online form at no cost. This is an excellent option for immigrant students as it doesn’t affect your credit score.

There are no restrictions on who can fill out a form, though adding a cosigner will likely increase your chances of being prequalified with at least one lender.

Students can borrow up to 100% of the school’s certified cost of attendance, less any other financial aid received. Both fixed and variable rate loan options are available.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants

  • Credible doesn’t have any requirements to use its form


  • Accepts international students with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident as cosigner
  • No origination, disbursement, or late fees
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Earnest is an online lender offering various student loans for different borrowers. Most of its student loans can be applied for by international students with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident added as a cosigner.

An online form can be completed in two minutes to confirm whether you prequalify without impacting your credit score. Other benefits include no fees, choosing between four repayment plans, and a nine-month grace period.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or have a cosigner who is
  • Students must be attending or enrolled to attend full-time at an eligible four-year Title IV institution
  • Live in the District of Columbia or any state other than Nevada
  • Be the age of majority in the state of residence

Which student loan is best for immigrants?

The best student loans for immigrants are the ones that allow students to borrow the money they need to pay for school, without setting impossible-to-meet requirements to qualify. 

When comparing student loans for dreamers and immigrants, the most important considerations include:

  • Cosigner requirements. While some private lenders require a cosigner for international student loans, others do not. If a cosigner is required, it’s important to know beforehand so you have time to find a suitable candidate.
  • Documentation requirements. When applying for a student loan as an immigrant, there are certain pieces of documentation you may need to verify your identity and residency status. It’s important to know which visa statuses are accepted and what other documentation you may need to submit if you’re a DACA recipient.
  • Loan details. In addition to knowing what you’ll need to qualify, it’s also helpful to understand how different loans measure up. For instance, you’ll likely want to look at minimum and maximum loan limits, interest rates, and fees to decide which loan is best for your needs.

Also, it’s important to consider the timing for applying for loans. While many online lenders can process applications for student loans for immigrants quickly, it can still take time to finalize the loan details. Ensure you have enough time to get approved and have funds disbursed to your school before the term starts.

Alternative sources of financial aid for immigrants

In addition to federal and private student loans, immigrant students may qualify for aother types of financial aid.

Pell Grants

Certain eligible non-citizens may qualify for federal Pell Grants and other types of free federal aid. Citizens of the Republic of Palau are eligible for Pell Grants, Federal Supplement Educational Opportunity Grants, and federal work-study.

Citizens of the Federal States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are eligible for Pell Grants.

Private scholarships

Prospective students can check out the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) website to learn about grants, fellowships, and scholarships in their state.

Country-specific aid

Immigrants may want to contact their country’s embassy, consulate, or government to see if they offer grants, scholarships, or student loans to help them attend college in the U.S.

While it can be more challenging to finance a college education if you are not a naturalized U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, there are options available.