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Best international student loans in September 2022

As of September 30, 2022
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While U.S. federal student loans can be a great way to pay for college, they're limited to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible noncitizens. This means that a private student loan is the best way to pay for college for most international students – any student who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. International student loans may cover up to 100 percent of the cost of education, including tuition, books, supplies, housing and more, so they're a good option if you're having trouble paying for your education on your own and have maxed out scholarship opportunities.
 
To get started, you'll need to compare a few lenders and ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements. In many cases, you'll need a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. From there, you can apply for most loans online in just a few minutes.
 
The guide below is a starting point for international students looking for college funding. Students can get prequalified with some of the top international student loan lenders, as well as learn more about how to qualify for these loans and how to find the best interest rate.
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INCOME BASED REPAYMENT

INCOME SHARE AGREEMENT

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.75- 13.72%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

Cost of attendance minus aid

Term: 10-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.7

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.75- 13.35%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.15- 14.75%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $400k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.22- 13.95%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $500k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

Income Based Repayment - No Cosigner Required

Get approved in minutes. Pre-qualify without affecting your credit score.

Apply on partner site

4.3

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.22- 12.78%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $350k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.0

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.99- 9.74%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

BEST WITH CO-SIGNER

4.4

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.24- 9.93%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $350k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.2

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.20- 11.99%

Loan Amount

$1k- $500k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

Income Share Agreement

Income shares range start as low as 1% of income over a 5 year period.

Apply on partner site

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.89- 14.75%

Loan Amount

$3k- $20k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

The Bankrate guide to choosing the best international student loans

Why trust Bankrate?

At Bankrate, our mission is to empower you to make smarter financial decisions. We’ve been comparing and surveying financial institutions for more than 40 years to help you find the right products for your situation. Our award-winning editorial team follows strict guidelines to ensure the content is not influenced by advertisers. Additionally, our content is thoroughly reported and vigorously edited to ensure accuracy.

When searching for a student loan, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive interest rate. Also look for lenders that keep fees to a minimum and offer repayment terms that fit your needs. Loan details presented here are current as of Aug. 25, 2022. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The student loan lenders listed here are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and more. To learn more about how we select lenders, see our methodology at the bottom of the page.

Compare international student loan rates in September 2022

LENDER CURRENT APR RANGE LOAN TERM LOAN AMOUNT RANGE BEST FOR
Ascent Fixed: 3.89% - 14.75% (with autopay); Variable: 2.52% - 12.87% (with autopay) 5 to 20 years $2,001 – $400,000 (aggregate) Flexible payment options
Citizens Bank Fixed: 4.24% - 9.93% Variable: 3.25% - 9.69% 5 to 15 years $1,000 – $150,000 for undergraduate and $350,000 for graduate Low APR
College Ave Fixed: 3.22% – 13.95% (with autopay); Variable: 2.49% – 13.85% (with autopay) 5 to 20 years $1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance for undergraduate and graduate and $150,000 for dental, law, medical and MBA Quick application process
Sallie Mae Fixed: 3.75% - 13.72% (with autopay), Variable: 3.37% - 13.72% (with autopay) 10 to 20 years $1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance Building credit

Best for flexible payment options

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
3.89% –14.75%
Loan amount:
$3,000–$20,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
$0
Overview: Ascent is an online lender that offers student loans to international students who have a qualified co-signer. Ascent's flexible hardship options and rewards program set it apart from other lenders.
Why Ascent is best for flexible payment options: Ascent allows you to customize your repayment with a long grace period, three options for in-school payments and a choice between four-plus repayment terms.

Best for low APR

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
4.24% –9.93%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$350,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$12,000
Overview: Citizens Bank is a traditional bank that has branches in 15 states. If you live elsewhere, you may be directed to its national lending division, Citizens One. The bank offers student loans to international students for both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Of all the lenders on this list, Citizens Bank advertises some of the lowest APRs.
Why Citizens Bank is best for low APR: Citizens Bank's minimum and maximum APRs are relatively low. Borrowers can lower their APR even further by combining autopay and loyalty discounts.

Best for a quick application process

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
3.22% –13.95%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$35,000
Overview: College Ave is an online lender that offers private student loans to international students with an eligible co-signer. The lender specializes in a quick application process.
Why College Ave is best for a quick application process: College Ave claims that its initial application takes only three minutes. The prequalification form is easy to navigate, requiring just basic personal information and your requested loan amount. The tool automatically pulls your estimated cost of attendance based on the school and loan period you input.

Best for building credit

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
3.75% –13.72%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$500,000
Term lengths:
10 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$0
Overview: If you're an international student, building credit in the U.S. can help you qualify for other credit products and rent an apartment. Student loans generally help you build credit when the lender reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Sallie Mae takes it one step further by offering borrowers a free quarterly FICO credit score. This allows you to track your credit health and understand how managing your student loan influences your credit score.
Why Sallie Mae is best for building credit: Making timely payments on student loans helps you build your credit score. And because Sallie Mae offers a free quarterly FICO Score, it's a good option to help you track your progress toward building credit.

What is an international student loan?

International student loans are loans designed for non-U.S. citizens by private lenders such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. You can typically use the funds to pay for tuition, fees, books, school supplies, transportation, insurance and living costs at a school in the U.S.

The easiest way to shop for student loans is online, since almost all lenders offer online prequalification in a matter of minutes. However, if you prefer to discuss your options in person, you can also go to a branch of a bank offering student loan products.

How international student loans work

When you apply for a student loan, you'll request the loan amount you need for the upcoming academic year. In many cases, you can apply for your full cost of attendance, minus any financial aid you've already received. If you're approved for the loan, the lender will verify your cost of attendance with your school and then send the school the funds to cover tuition and fees. Any amount remaining will be sent to you.

In general, you do not have to start making payments until you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment, though interest will begin accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed. Once you enter repayment, you'll make payments that consist of the principal and interest. You'll make these payments until you've reached the end of your repayment term and your loan is paid off in full.

What are current international student loan rates?

Interest rates for international student loans currently range from about 1 percent to 15 percent. The actual rate you receive depends on multiple factors, such as whether you have a co-signer, the type of APR (fixed versus variable), your country of origin and your credit profile, annual income and debt-to-income ratio. The amount you can borrow also varies depending on your degree program and cost of attendance.

Eligibility requirements for international student loans

Eligibility requirements for international student loans vary by lender, but you can expect a few common baselines:

  • A creditworthy co-signer: Because international students may not have a Social Security number or credit profile, most lenders will require a U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer with good credit on international student loans.
  • An eligible school: Lenders may limit which schools and/or programs the borrower may attend in order to qualify for a loan.
  • A U.S. address: Borrowers typically must have a U.S. address in order to receive loan funds.
  • A good academic profile: In most cases, lenders will require you to make satisfactory academic progress as defined by the school. This typically means maintaining a minimum GPA and enrolling in sufficient credit hours.

Getting an international student loan without a co-signer

To qualify for a private loan, most international students will need a co-signer who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and who has a strong credit history. A co-signer accepts responsibility for making payments on your loan if you miss payments. If you fall behind, it could negatively impact your credit as well as your co-signer's.

It may be hard to find someone willing to co-sign a loan with you, especially if you don't have friends and family in the U.S. yet. For this reason, some lenders offer special loans for international students that don't require a co-signer. However, these lenders are few and far between and often have much higher interest rates than traditional lenders.

FAQ about loans for international students

Methodology

To find the best international student loans, we first searched for lenders that do not require borrowers to be U.S. citizens, with preference toward lenders that do not require a co-signer. From there, we looked for lenders with low starting rates to ensure that international students had access to affordable loans.

To narrow down our final rankings, we examined APR ranges, repayment terms and maximum loan amounts, taking into account unique features like multiyear approval and flexible repayment options.