Paying for an education in the U.S. is a daunting proposition for international students. If you do not qualify for financial aid from the U.S. government (federal financial aid), your options for paying for college are limited. However, many noncitizens do qualify for federal financial aid.
We've outlined who qualifies below as well as other sources of funding international students can access to pay for college in the U.S. below.
Federal Financial Aid for International Students
If you are a non-US student wishing to study in the US, your options for funding your education are limited. However, many noncitizens do qualify for financial aid from the US government. These students are classified as eligible noncitizens. The most common students who would qualify is a permanent resident or "green card" holder.
Here are the other categories of students who qualify for federal financial aid:
- U.S. national including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island.
- U.S. permanent resident with a Form I-551 or I-151, or I-151C. There are referred to as a Permanent Resident Card, Resident Alien Card, or Alien Registration Receipt Card and are more commonly called a green card.
- You have a an Arrival Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing "Refugee", "Asylum Granted", "Cuban Haitian Entrant (Status Pending)", "Conditional Entrant" issued prior to 4/1/1980 or "Parolee". Parolees must be paroled for at least a year and must provide evidence from the USCIS that you are not in the U.S. for a temporary reason and that you intend to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- You or your parent holds a T-Visa for victims of human trafficking. Your school will need to see your visa or letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- You are a “battered immigrant-qualified alien”. Specifically, you are a victim of abuse by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or you are the child of a person designated as such under the Violence Against Women Act.
- You are a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau. If this is the case, you are eligible only for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, or Federal Work-Study. Contact your school's financial aid office to discuss your eligibility if this status applies to you.
Talk to the admissions and financial aid offices at the colleges you wish to attend. The school may offer assistance based on your academic record, your noncitizen status, know of funding sources or be able to talk to you about how other noncitizens pay for an education at their institution.
Private Scholarships for International Students
Scholarships are available for international students. You can use a free scholarship search to find opportunities that match your background and interests.
Student Loans for Students from Other Countries
If you do not have a U.S. citizen willing to cosign for a private student loan, you will not be able to borrow to pay for your education. If you do have a U.S. citizen cosigner, there are a number of banks and lenders that may be willing to make a loan to you for college. However, these loans are credit-based which means the bank or lender will look at your cosigner's credit history including income, debt and payment record to decide whether and how much they will be willing to lend to you.
Even if you have a U.S. cosigner, you may not be approved for a student loan because of the role credit plays in the decision-making process.
Other Sites to Explore
There are a number of resources and sites dedicated to helping non-US students study in the US. Here are just a few you might find helpful: