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.1 That means 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 the choices. These loans don’t require borrowers to have a Social Security number (SSN), collateral, and two we like don’t even require a cosigner.
Best International Student Loans of December 2022
- Best for Undergraduate Students Without a Cosigner: MPOWER Financing
- Best for Graduate Students Without a Cosigner: Prodigy Finance
- Best for Graduate Students With a Cosigner: Citizens One
- Best Interest Rates: Ascent Student Loans
- Best for DACA Recipients: Discover
Many international students don’t have the option of having a U.S.-based cosigner and borrowing in their own country may require collateral. Two major financing companies are filling this gap by offering private student loans that don’t require a cosigner. The most widely available provider is MPOWER Financing.
MPOWER private student loans are available to international undergraduate and graduate students within two years of graduating or about to begin a one or two-year program at one of 350 approved schools in the U.S. or Canada.
Students make interest-only payments while in school for the first six months and six months after graduation. After this period, borrowers make full repayments (interest and principal) until the loan is paid off. And while there’s no application or prepayment fee, there is a 5% origination fee on every loan.
MPOWER international student loan rates before discounts:2
- Undergraduate fixed APR: Starting at 13.63%
- Graduate fixed APR: Starting at 11.59%
- Repayment terms: 10 years
- Loan amounts: $2,001–$100,000
What makes MPOWER the best student loan for borrowers without a cosigner is the availability of loans for undergraduate students and access to free visa support letters, immigration resources, and scholarship opportunities.
Borrowers can also take advantage of up to three interest rate discounts:
- 0.50% for enrolling in autopay
- 0.50% after six on-time payments with autopay
- Another 0.50% for reporting proof of graduation and employment
Read the full review: MPOWER Financing Student Loans
Best for Graduate Students Without a Cosigner Prodigy Finance
Prodigy Finance is the other company offering private student loans to international students without a cosigner, but it’s only available to students seeking a graduate degree in business, science, technology, engineering, math, law and public policy, or healthcare.
Students have three repayment term options and payments are automatically deferred while in school, but you can make payments anytime without penalties or fees. There are no application or prepayment fees, but Prodigy does charge a 5% administration fee on every loan.
Prodigy Finance international student loan details:3
- Variable APR: Starting at 9.54%
- Repayment terms: Seven to 20 years
- Loan amounts: $15,000 and up at most U.S. schools
What makes Prodigy attractive for eligible students is the simple interest rates it offers—interest doesn’t compound throughout the life of the loan which saves borrowers money. Prodigy also reports payments to credit bureau Experian, and this helps students build credit in the U.S.
On the other hand, Prodigy uses a variable interest rate model that consists of a fixed margin rate plus a variable base rate. The average annual percentage rate (APR) for student loans is 12% with Prodigy.3
Read the full review: Prodigy Finance Student Loans
Best for Graduate Students With a Cosigner Citizens One
Citizens One offers loans to international students who have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. There are no application, origination, or prepayment fees, and borrowers can choose from four in-school repayment options and three terms.
Citizen One international student loan details:4
- Graduate Fixed APR: 5.99%–14.25%
- Graduate Variable APR: 5.24%-14.25%
- Repayment terms: Five, 10, or 15 years
- Graduate loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance or $350,000 total aggregate, depending on the degree
Citizens One offers some of the lowest interest rates available, especially for its graduate and professional loans. The lender also offers medical residency and bar study loans making it a more affordable choice for graduate students who have a cosigner.
Borrowers can lower their rates with a 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in autopay and another 0.25% reduction if the student or cosigner has a Citizens Bank account or loan. Unfortunately, international students can’t take advantage of other features Citizens One offers, like multi-year approval or cosigner release.
Read the full review: Citizens Bank Student Loans
Best Interest Rates Ascent Student Loans
Ascent student loans are available to international students with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. There are no application, origination, or prepayment fees and you can choose from three in-school repayment options and six repayment terms, up to 15 years for fixed-rate loans or 20 years for variable-rate loans.
Ascent cosigned loan rates with all possible discounts:5
- Variable APR: 4.72%–13.73%
- Fixed APR: 4.62%–15.66%
- Repayment terms: Five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years
- Loan amounts: $2,001 up to the total cost of attendance or $400,000 total aggregate, whichever is lower
Co-signed loans are eligible for a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay and borrowers can get a 1% cashback reward once they graduate from the degree program for which the loan was used to fund. Ascent also provides a free interactive financial literacy course that students are required to take before their loan is funded.
There are unfortunately some features Ascent offers that international students aren’t eligible for, including cosigner release, monthly scholarship drawings, and its referral program.
Read the full review: Ascent Student Loans
Best for DACA Recipients Discover
Discover offers private student loans to international students who are attending an eligible U.S. college or university and have a creditworthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Loans are fee-free and students have the option of four in-school repayment options but only one term.
Discover international student loan details:6
- Undergraduate Variable APR: 4.74%–13.99%
- Undergraduate Fixed APR: 5.49%–14.99%
- Repayment terms: 15 years
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
Students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are unique in that they live in the U.S. and can apply for a Social Security number, but they aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. This means many are already building credit but still have to turn to private student loans to fund their education.
Discover is one of the only lenders offering multi-year approval to students with or without an SSN. This helps students avoid multiple hard credit inquiries so they can continue to build credit. Discover also offers a 1% cash reward for good grades and a 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in autopay.
Read the full review: Discover Student Loans
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:7
- 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.