Colleges and universities in the U.S. can be surprisingly expensive, and many students need to take out student loans to afford tuition, fees and basic necessities. For Americans, the U.S. federal government offers federal student loans that are easy to qualify for, have low interest rates and multiple repayment plans. As an international student, you’ll have fewer options when it comes to finding a loan with a good rate. But getting an international student loan with no cosigner can be hard.
Private lenders, such as banks and credit unions, may offer you a loan. However, even when they do, they’ll often ask for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to cosign the loan. You may know someone who can cosign for you, but, if you’re an international student with no cosigner, you’ll want to explore the few alternative options.
What Is a Cosigner?
While getting a loan with a cosigner might not be an option or first choice for many students, it’s worth reviewing what cosigning is and how it works.
A cosigner is someone who agrees to be legally liable for a contract. If someone cosigns a loan that you receive, they agree to repay the loan if you can’t or don’t make your loan payments.
If the loan goes unpaid, the creditor may sue you and your cosigner. It could even be able to take money directly from your paychecks or bank accounts. And, the lender will likely report the late payments to the credit bureaus under both your and your cosigner’s name, which can hurt both of your credit histories in the U.S.
Creditors generally want a cosigner when the primary borrower doesn’t have a credit history or doesn’t qualify for the loan on their own. However, the cosigner will also need to meet the lender’s requirements. As a result, even if you have a cosigner, that might not be enough to qualify for a loan.
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Getting an International Student Loan Without a Cosigner
If you want to take out a student loan, you’ll need to meet the lender’s basic requirements and qualify for a loan. These can vary depending on the lender and loan type, and they may change over time.
Basic Qualifications for International Students
Many private student loan companies only offer loans to United States citizens and permanent residents, which rules out international students from the start. Or, they offer international student loans, but only to international students loans with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Among the lenders that offer no-cosigner loans to international students, the basic requirements may include:
Attend an approved school
Come from a qualifying country
Be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible degree-granting program
Finish your program within two years
Live in the U.S. while attending school
Qualify for a student visa for entry into the U.S.
Verify your identity
In addition to meeting the basic qualifications, you’ll also need to pass the lender’s underwriting review.
Loan Requirements for International Students Without Cosigners
Applying for a loan doesn't guarantee that you’ll get approved or receive a good offer. Lenders have varying loan eligibility requirements; if you’re looking for an international student loan with no cosigner, your approval, loan amount and interest rates can depend on:
Your credit history and score in the U.S., if you have one
Your employment and educational history
A copy of your bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns and other financial documents
Your family’s financial statements, if they’re planning on supporting you while you’re at school
Your estimated future earnings
If you can meet the basic eligibility and loan requirements for an international student loan with no cosigner, you may be able to take out a private student loan and use the funds to pay for your school and living expenses. Compare the rates and terms of the loans to see which makes the most sense for you.
Lenders That Offer International Student Loans Without a Cosigner
Only a couple of companies offer international student loans with no cosigner in the U.S. The primary two are MPOWER Financing, which partners with Nova Credit, and Prodigy Finance. These two companies focus on different types of students and have unique application, review and financing processes.
MPOWER Financing offers student loans to both undergraduate and graduate students. It focuses on international students, DACA recipients within the U.S., and refugee or asylum-seekers. Their loans are also available to U.S. citizens, although federal student loans are often the best first-choice for those who can qualify.
For an international student loan without a cosigner, you may be able to qualify for up to $25,000 with each application, and up to $50,000 total for either undergraduate or graduate programs at one of the eligible schools. You’ll need to already be admitted to or enrolled at the school to qualify. However, you can apply for a loan from MPOWER up to 12 months before your program’s start date.
While there are no specific degree limitations, the loans are only available to students who are in a degree-granting program. You’ll also need to be within two years of completing your program, or be beginning a one- or two-year graduate program.
The loan will have a fixed interest rate, which means you’ll know your exact monthly payment amount for the lifetime of the loan. However, there are three opportunities to receive a .50% APR discount:
Signing up for auto pay
Making six on-time payments (with autopay)
Reporting proof of graduating and finding full-time work.
You also only need to make interest payments while you’re in school and for six months after leaving your program. And the 5% origination fee will be added to your loan amount once you accept an offer.
MPOWER reports your loan to TransUnion, one of the major credit bureaus in the U.S., which can help you establish and build credit in the U.S. system. It can also send you support letters which you may need for your student visa.
Additionally, you may be able to use your credit history from your home country to apply for an international student loan without a cosigner from MPOWER.
Use your international credit history to apply for a loan to fund your studies in the U.S. with MPOWER Financing.
The entire application process generally takes two to 10 weeks, depending on how long it takes you to upload the required documents and for MPOWER and your school to verify the information. If you’re approved and accept the loan, your loan amount will be sent directly to your school.
Unlike MPOWER, Prodigy Finance solely focuses on graduate students who are attending top-ranked schools. To qualify for an international student loan with no cosigner, you’ll need to be from one of the supported countries, attending one of the approved schools (there are over 900 worldwide) and seeking a degree in:
Science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields
Health sciences, including dentistry, nursing and public health
You’ll also need to use the funds for a study abroad program, although if you’ve lived in a country for less than a year, you may qualify for a loan to pay for school in that country.
Prodigy offers loans of up to $40,000 with a 4% admin fee (similar to an origination fee). Your loan amount and interest rate will depend on your future earning potential rather than credit history. Prodigy attempts to determine this based on information from your application, data from the schools it supports and past customers’ experiences. Your international student loan without a cosigner will also have a variable rate, which means the interest rate and your payment amount may increase or decrease in the future.
An application takes about 30 minutes to complete, and you’ll need to share your personal, educational and financial information. If you’re approved and accept the loan, Prodigy will send the money directly to your school in the U.S. You can also use the loan confirmation letter to support your visa application.
You can choose to defer making any payments while you’re in school and for up to six months after finishing. However, interest will still accrue during this period. If you want, you can make early payments without paying any early payment fees or penalties. Taking out the loan can also help you build credit in the U.S. as Prodigy will report your account to Experian, another one of the major credit bureaus.
Alternative Options for Financing Your Education
MPOWER and Prodigy are two popular options for student loans for non-US citizens who are studying in the U.S. and don’t have a readily available cosigner. However, you may not be from a supported country, attending a supported school, qualify for a loan or decide to look for financing elsewhere.
Even if you do qualify, it’s likely a good idea to compare all your financial aid options before taking out a loan. Here are a few suggestions:
Apply for Grants and Scholarships
If you can’t or opt not to get a student loan with no cosigner, grants and scholarships can be one of the best ways to pay for school because, unlike with a loan, you don’t have to repay the money. While both options are gift aid, they generally have different criteria.
Grants tend to be need-based, meaning they’re awarded to students who have a financial need and may be unable to pay for school otherwise. Some scholarships are need-based as well, but there are also merit-based scholarships that you may be able to qualify for based on your personal or academic accomplishments. And some organizations offer scholarships to individuals with similar identities, such as a shared cultural, national or religious background.
Winning grants and scholarships can be difficult because there are limited options available and many students apply. However, it’s worth putting in the time to find opportunities and complete the application process. You can start by looking through lists and searchable databases of grant and scholarship opportunities online:
Your school may also include grants within your financial aid package if you qualify. Additionally, you can ask the school financial aid department about other grant and scholarship opportunities. Also, look for gift aid from your home country, as some countries have funding programs specifically for citizens who want to study in the U.S.
See If You Qualify for Federal Loans
U.S. federal student loans are generally only available to citizens and permanent residents. However, some noncitizens may be able to qualify for federal loans depending on their immigration status. For example, you may qualify if:
You’re a U.S. national
You Form I-94 shows refugee, asylum granted, Cuban-Haitian entrant, conditional entrant (if issued before April 1, 1980) or parolee (in some cases).
You have a T-visa or your parent has a T-1 nonimmigrant status
You are, or are the child of, someone with a battered immigrant-qualified alien status
You’re a citizen of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands or Palau.
Check the Department of Education's website for more information.
Get a Part-Time Job
While part-time work generally won’t be enough to cover the entire cost of school, it may cut down on how much money you need to borrow. However, even if you want to work, you may be limited in what types of jobs you can take on if you’re in the U.S. with a student visa.
For example, with an F-1 visa, you generally can’t work off-campus. However, you may be able to find work through an optional practical training (OPT) program. And, after your first year in school, work up to 20 hours per work at an eligible on-campus job.
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Look for Other Lenders
There may be lesser-known lenders that offer student loans to international students without cosigners. For example, international graduate students should also look at Quorum Federal Credit Union, although the lender only works with students at six universities.
Universities and colleges have financial aid departments, and you can contact the departments to see if they have recommendations for international students. You may find that there are small banks or credit unions that offer loans to students at your school, or students from the same country or region.
You can also look for a loan in your home country and use the funds to pay for school. However, you’ll have to find a way to transfer the money to the school and may wind up paying additional fees.
Ask Potential Cosigners
Although you may have set out to finance your study in the U.S. without a co-signer, having a cosigner can open up additional student loan options from U.S. banks, credit unions and lenders.
If you have friends or family members who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, consider reaching out and asking if they’d feel comfortable cosigning. Remember that they’re taking a financial risk, so you’ll want to be clear about how you plan on repaying the loan and what might happen if you can’t make a payment. You should also research what steps a lender might take to collect from a cosigner if you’re injured, disabled or die before paying off the loan.
Finding Your Path
While studying in the U.S. can be expensive for international students, you may have several options available. First, see if you can qualify for any grants or scholarships, as that’s free money you don’t need to repay. Then, look to see if you’re part of one of the groups of non-citizens that qualifies for federal loans.
If you’re left with a funding gap, you can apply for loans with one of the international student lending companies that doesn’t require a cosigner. Or, look for a cosigner to increase your funding options.
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