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Student Loans

Student Loans for Immigrants

The face of American higher education is evolving. Nearly 30% of U.S. college students are from immigrant families, and that number is only growing.

However, some of these immigrants may not be naturalized citizens or lawful permanent residents. This limits their financial aid options, including access to federal student loans.

Still, there are ways to finance a college education as an immigrant, including through various private lenders.

What kinds of student loans are available to immigrants?

When looking for student loans, you should always start with federal 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 to you is to consult with 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. But these students may still be eligible for state-funded loans or grants and school-specific aid.

If you don’t meet the requirements for federal loans, then you’ll need to turn to private student loans. There are several private lenders that 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 will first need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA. Non-citizens are required to enter their alien registration number (commonly referred to as 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 types of 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. Here are some of your options.

Lenders that don’t require a cosigner

Prodigy Finance

  • Student loans for international master’s degrees
  • Has funded over $1 billion in loans for over 20,000 students
  • No cosigner or collateral

Founded in 2007, Prodigy Finance offers loans to international students attending 850+ eligible schools in 18 countries. Specifically, these loans are designed for students who are pursuing a master’s degree in selected fields.

Funding for loans comes from Prodigy Finance’s community of investors. The platform offers flexible repayment terms for immigrant students, with loan terms ranging from seven to 20 years. There are no cosigner or collateral requirements for loans.

Prodigy provides borrowers with customized quotes to help them compare loan options. There are no prepayment penalties for paying the loan off early, but there is an administrative fee that’s charged upfront.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants
  • Students must be studying abroad at an eligible school or program
  • Students must be from a country that Prodigy Finance supports
  • Proof of identity and address are required
  • Proof of income and a credit check are required

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

Lenders that require a cosigner

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

Sallie Mae

  • Student loans for undergraduates, graduates, and career training
  • Requires a creditworthy cosigner

Sallie Mae is a well-known name in student lending. Originally a servicer of federal student loans, Sallie Mae now offers private student loan funding for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as financing for career training programs.

International students can apply for Sallie Mae loans if they have an eligible cosigner. Cosigners must be creditworthy U.S. citizens or permanent residents. A valid Social Security number is required to apply.

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
  • International students must have a creditworthy cosigner to apply for loans (cosigner release is available for students who achieve permanent resident status and meet other requirements)
  • Students must be residing in the U.S. while enrolled in school either on a full-time, half-time, or less than half-time basis
  • Valid Social Security numbers are required for international borrowers and cosigners


  • No fees
  • Skip one payment per year, if needed
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Earnest is a fintech platform that offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to eligible borrowers. Loan options include undergraduate and graduate loans as well as loans for MBA programs, medical school, and law school.

International students can apply for Earnest loans if they live in a state that Earnest lends in and have an eligible cosigner. Cosigners must meet minimum credit score and income requirements.

Earnest loans offer some advantages that other student loans for international students don’t. For example, you have the option to skip a payment once per year and the grace period is nine months versus the usual six months.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants
  • International students are required to apply with a qualified cosigner
  • Primary borrowers must have a U.S. Social Security number (if you don’t have one, you can contact Earnest’s Client Happiness Team to discuss your options for getting a loan with a cosigner)
  • Students must be attending an eligible school and pursuing either a bachelor’s or graduate degree


  • Student loans for international students and DACA recipients
  • 1% cash back reward after graduation
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Ascent’s online lending platform offers cosigned loans to international students. Cosigned and non-cosigned loans are also available for DACA recipients.

Credit-based loans for international students who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree require a cosigner who’s a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Cosigners must also meet minimum income requirements.

Ascent accepts either a valid visa or an I-20 form and a current passport as proof of residency for international students. Students can apply with any of these visa statuses: F-1, F-3, G Series, H-1B, H-1C, H-3, J-1, L-1, M-1, M-3, T-1, or TN.

Eligibility requirements for immigrants
  • International students must be attending school in the U.S. and be enrolled full-time or half-time
  • Students must have an accepted visa status that does not expire within six months of the end of the enrollment period that the loan is taken out for
  • All international students must have a cosigner, regardless of whether they’re applying for undergraduate or graduate loans

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.