How Can J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN Refinance Their Student Loans? (2024)


If you just graduated from a US college or graduate school as an international student, you may be starting to explore making payments on your student loans. In some cases, you may find that your payments are quite high or you may wonder if you can switch to a lower interest rate.

International students are eligible to refinance their student loans under certain circ*mstances.

How Can J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN Refinance Their Student Loans? (1)

What is student loan refinancing?

Student loan refinancing means paying off your current student loan with a new loan. Compared to the original loan, the new loan has a lower interest rate and better terms like lower monthly payments.

Refinancing is a strategic way to make loan payments more manageable, reduce interest payments or get out of debt faster.

Why would international students want to refinance student loans?

After completing your US education, you may have more loan options. You may consider refinancing to modify the terms of your international student loan and to take advantage of better loan terms.

Your required monthly payments are too high

If you are struggling to meet your required monthly student loan payments, refinancing is a possible solution. For instance, you have to pay $600 every month, but you would be more comfortable with paying only $400.

In this case, refinancing may help in two ways: it may reduce the interest which may reduce the monthly payment or it may extend the term of the loan (the number of years) which may reduce the monthly payment (or it may do both)

Your interest is too high

Refinancing can help you take advantage of lower rates. Interest rates for international student loans can be 8% or even higher. Certain lenders cater specially to international students including Prodigy Finance and Quorum Federal Credit Union. Each of them usually lends at around 8-9%. If you refinance, you may be eligible for rates as low as 4%.

For instance, you borrowed $78K at 8.25% for 20 years. If you have the option to refinance at 6.55% when your balance is $60K, you can save around $18K in interest.

You want to pay less interest overall and pay off the loan faster

Most international student loans have a maximum term of 20 years. If you refinance at a lower rate and reduce the term, you can pay off the loan faster. The monthly payments may be higher but you will be debt free in a shorter amount of time.

You want to release a cosigner

If you applied for a student loan with a cosigner and your lender has no cosigner release program, you may want to consider refinancing. When you refinance the loan, you may be able to arrange for the loan to be in your name only or add a new cosigner. Adding a cosigner may entitle you to a lower interest rate or better loan terms.

Challenges US Visa Holders Face When Trying to Refinance Student Loans

Refinancing may be an option, but international students sometimes find that they will have trouble being approved. If you are a non-citizen staying in the US on a temporary visa, lenders consider you a relatively high-risk client for a variety of reasons.

People with insufficient credit history have trouble getting approved for student loan refinancing

Having a credit score of at least 690 increases your eligibility for international student loan refinancing. While it’s tough to build your credit history while studying it is still possible. Some things you can do include:

  • Opening a bank account

  • Getting a secured credit card and using it responsibly

  • Paying bills on time

You should also have a credit history of at least two years. Without proof of credit history, lenders may be skeptical about allowing you to refinance your loan onto their books.

Related Article |How US Immigrants Can Build Their Credit Score

International students often don’t have a US cosigner

Having a co-signer who is a US citizen or a permanent resident with a credit rating of at least 690 could increase your chances of getting approved for better refinancing terms. Your co-signer will pay the loan if you default and they add another layer of security for the lender.

Without a cosigner, you’ll need to prove your own creditworthiness by improving your personal credit score. This can be challenging for international students and US visa holders to do but it is possible.

International students may have temporary status in the US

Non-citizens who are not permanent residents pose more risk to a lender. If you are not a permanent resident or a Green Card holder, your stay in the country depends on your visa renewal. Even if you have a work visa, there is a possibility that your visa will not be renewed or extended. At present, there is much uncertainty about the status of temporary visa holders in the US. This is also one reason why most banks will require a cosigner who is a US citizen or a permanent resident.

Related Article:How Much Income Tax Will I Pay While Working On An H-1B Visa?

Lenders consider international students "high risk" because they may leave the US permanently

If you default on your loan and you leave the country with no plans of returning, it is challenging for a lender to force you to pay. Your US credit history will be affected for the next seven years, but that may not deter you. For this reason, lenders consider you high risk and may not want to refinance your loan.

What do you usually need to refinance student loans?

Eligibility requirements for student loan refinancing tend to be stricter than the requirements for the initial disbursem*nt of student loans for tuition. Each lender has different rules about who can refinance student loans. Lenders will look for the following characteristics in a refinancing application to determine whether they can approve you:

Permanent Employment with a Stable Company

You will have better chances of getting lower interest rates if you have a job offer or you have secured employment in a stable company.

It is not enough for you to be employed. Your employment will need to be with a stable and established company. Lenders may shy away from refinancing your loans if you work at a small or unstable company. Lenders may also look at the type of work that you do and gauge whether it would be easy for you to find a new job if you get fired.

Debt-to-Income Ratio of No More Than 43%

Yourdebt-to-income ratiois one of the things lenders will consider. This ratio is computed by dividing your monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. If your debt ratio is less than 43%, you have a higher chance of being able to refinance. What is a debt ratio? For example if you have a $1000/mo rent payment and a $200/mo auto payment and you earn $5000/mo, your debt ratio is $1200 divided by $5000 or 24%. A bank will look at your debt ratio and determine that you have plenty left over every month to make payments on an additional debt.

Credit Score of at Least 690

In the US, most lenders will only consider your US credit record. If you have not invested in building a strong credit history in the US, you should do that before you apply for refinancing.

Valid Visa With Likely Renewal

On the date you apply for student loan refinancing, you must have a valid visa with a validity of at least two years. If your visa is ending soon, you should renew it prior to applying for refinancing so that the lender isn’t concerned about your ability to stay in the US.

Related Article:How to Pick Visitors Insurance For Family Visiting The US?

Strategies for International Students Looking to Refinance Student Loans

There are several ways to refinance your student loan if you are looking for a better payment plan. These options include the following.

Option 1: Take a low-interest loan from a family member or friend

If you have a friend or family member with the resources and who is willing, you may be able to offer them an opportunity to help you refinance your student loan and receive interest income in exchange.

If you decide to do this, it is best to have an attorney draft the contract and make sure everything is in writing including the terms of the loan, the monthly payment, any penalties, and the interest rate.

For written family loan contracts, you should be careful to select a realistic interest rate. If the interest is too low, the IRS may consider the loan a gift and may be subject to gift tax.

Take note that the donor has to pay the gift tax. US citizens, Green Card holders, resident aliens and nonresident aliens can give up to $15K without paying anygift tax. Except for nonresident aliens, the excess will count towards the lifetime estate tax exclusion of $11.4M (recently raised in the 2018 tax law and expires in 2025. The exclusion may be lowered in the future).

Option 2: Apply for a personal loan to pay off your international student loan

There are several options for US visa holders to take out personal loans. If you are strategic, you can use these loans to pay off your student loan. You might decide to do this if the interest rate you are offered on a personal loan is better than the interest rate on your student loan.

However, this strategy has disadvantages. By doing this, your new loan will be a personal loan, not aqualified student loan. For some taxpayers, up to $2500 of student loan interest paid each year is tax deductible, and you would lose this tax benefit if opt to transform your student loan into a personal loan. The interest on personal loans is not deductible.

Related Article:Can I take the student loan interest deduction if my loan was from a non-US bank?

Some lenders that refinance international student loans into personal loans include:

Avant Loans

  • Considers non-citizen loan applicants

  • Requirements include:

    • A credit score between 600 and 700

    • Income considered is usually between $40K to $100K

  • Interest rates:Varies by state and is usually between 9.95% to 35.99%

  • Learn more here:

Nomad Loans

  • Serves as a marketplacematching both US citizens and non-citizens to lenders

  • Requirements vary by lender

  • Interest rates:As low as 4.24%

  • Learn more here:

Option 3: Refinance your international student loan through a private student lender

J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1 or TN visa holders may be able to private student loan refinancing from select companies. These companies include:


  • Offers refinancing forH-1B, J-1, L-1, E-2, and E-3 visa holders

  • Requirements include:

    • Graduate with at least a Bachelor’s degree

    • Residence in an eligible US state

  • Interest rates:2.49% to 8.07% APR

  • Learn more here:

Prodigy Finance

  • Offers refinancing forinternational students studying in the UK or the US with an F1-OPT, H1B, L1 and O-1 visa and other valid visa types for international students

  • Requirements include:

    • UK or US address. If you are in the US, you should live in one of these states: AK, CO, DC, FL, GA, IL, KS, KY, MD, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI. UK residents should pursue a program in the UK and US residents should be studying in the US.

    • Graduate of a universitysupported by Prodigy

    • I-20 Form

  • Interest rates:4% plus LIBOR rate (currently at 2.5%) capped at 25%

  • Learn more here:


  • Offers refinancing forUS citizens, Green Card Holders, and individuals holding a J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN visa with at least two years before visa expiry

  • Requirements include:

    • Employed, has sufficient income from other sources or has a job offer with a start date of within 90 days from the date of the loan application

    • Strong monthly cash flow

    • Responsible financial history

  • Interest rates:2.49% to 9.95%

  • Learn more here:

Laurel Road

  • Offers refinancing forUS citizen or a resident alien with a Green Card who can present a Valid I-55 Form.

  • Requirements include:

    • Graduate of at least a Bachelor’s Degree or an Associate’s Degree specified by Laurel Road

    • Good Credit Score

  • Interest rates:2.55% to 7.02%

  • Learn more here:

Related Article:International Student Employment Options After Graduation

Related Article:What You Need To Know About Money And Student Visas

Consider All International Student Loan Refinancing Options Wisely

International student loan refinancing may be challenging but it is worth pursuing a better interest rate if you can find one. Before you move forward with refinancing, be sure to consider the new interest rate, loan term, any lender fees, and tax implications. An experienced financial and tax advisor like MYRA can help point you in the right direction about whether and how to refinance your international student loans.

Get Started

As an expert in the field of international student loans and refinancing, I have extensive knowledge and experience in guiding individuals through the complexities of managing their student debt. My expertise is grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the financial landscape for international students in the United States. Here, I will delve into the concepts and considerations covered in the provided article:

1. Student Loan Refinancing Overview:

  • Definition: Student loan refinancing involves replacing an existing loan with a new one, typically with better terms such as a lower interest rate and improved repayment conditions.
  • Purpose: It is a strategic financial move to make loan payments more manageable, reduce interest payments, or expedite debt repayment.

2. Why Refinance International Student Loans:

  • Lower Monthly Payments: Refinancing can be beneficial if current monthly payments are too high, providing an opportunity to negotiate a more affordable plan.
  • Reducing Interest Rates: International students often face high-interest rates; refinancing allows them to take advantage of lower rates, potentially saving significant amounts in interest payments.
  • Faster Debt Repayment: Shortening the loan term through refinancing enables quicker debt payoff, albeit with higher monthly payments.
  • Cosigner Release: Refinancing provides an avenue to release a cosigner from the loan, offering more independence and potential for better terms.

3. Challenges for International Students in Loan Refinancing:

  • Credit History: Building a robust credit history is crucial, with a recommended credit score of at least 690 for eligibility.
  • Cosigner Requirements: Many international students lack a US citizen or permanent resident cosigner, impacting their chances of approval.
  • Temporary Status: Visa-dependent residency poses a risk to lenders, making approval challenging for those without permanent resident status.
  • High-Risk Perception: Lenders view international students as high-risk due to the potential for leaving the US after defaulting on loans.

4. Eligibility Criteria for Refinancing:

  • Employment Stability: Lenders prefer applicants with permanent employment in stable and established companies.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: A ratio below 43% increases chances of approval, demonstrating the ability to handle additional debt.
  • Credit Score: A credit score of at least 690 is typically required.
  • Valid Visa: Applicants must possess a valid visa with at least two years of validity at the time of refinancing.

5. Strategies for International Students in Loan Refinancing:

  • Option 1: Taking a low-interest loan from a family member or friend, involving legal documentation to safeguard interests.
  • Option 2: Applying for a personal loan to pay off the student loan, considering potential tax implications and loss of student loan interest deductions.
  • Option 3: Refinancing through private student lenders, with specific companies catering to various visa holders.

6. Private Student Lenders for International Students:

  • CommonBond, Prodigy Finance, SoFi, Laurel Road, and others offer refinancing options based on specific visa types and eligibility criteria.

7. Considerations Before Refinancing:

  • Interest Rate: Carefully assess the new interest rate and its impact on overall repayment.
  • Loan Term: Understand the implications of changing the loan term on monthly payments and total repayment.
  • Lender Fees: Be aware of any associated fees with the refinancing process.
  • Tax Implications: Consider potential tax implications, especially if transforming a student loan into a personal loan.

In conclusion, international students exploring student loan refinancing must navigate a complex landscape, considering various factors to make informed decisions about their financial future. Always consult with financial and tax advisors to ensure the best possible outcome.

How Can J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN Refinance Their Student Loans? (2024)


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