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How to Refinance Student Loans as an International Student

By Carolyn Desalu · October 12, 2023 · 5 minute read

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How to Refinance Student Loans as an International Student

Refinancing your student loans can help save you money and reduce the amount of time you’ll be paying back your loan. However, as an international student, your options are limited. If you’re considering refinancing your student loans as an international student, it’s important to know where you can go and how it can help you.

How Refinancing Student Loans Works

Student loan refinancing is the process of replacing your current student loans with a new one, creating one monthly instead of several. You can refinance both federal and private student loans, potentially saving you money and time as you pay off your debt.

Student loan refinancing companies like SoFi offer fixed and variable interest rates that can be lower than what you’re currently paying on your student loans.

You can also choose from various student loan repayment options and terms, allowing you to pay off your loans as quickly as your budget allows. As you can guess, the shorter your repayment period, the more you’re likely to save on interest.

As you consider your strategy for paying off your student loan debt, refinancing can be a crucial element in helping you achieve your goal.

Another word you may hear that’s close to refinancing is consolidation. With other loans, the terms are typically synonymous. But with student loans, consolidation is generally associated with the federal direct loan consolidation program, while refinancing is typically done through a private lender.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Where to Refinance Student Loans for International Students

It’s not always easy to know where to go, and it can be frustrating to get turned down over and over again because of your international student status. Many refinancing companies require you to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible but fortunately, some companies provide more flexibility for international students. For instance, SoFi as well as MPOWER can offer loans to international students. SoFi, for example, considers U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and people who hold a J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN visa (as of the date of this article).

If you’re a permanent resident, you’ll need to either have at least two years left until your status expires or you’ve filed an extension. And if you’re a visa holder, you’ll need to have at least two years left before your status expires, or you’ve filed for a renewal or applied for permanent residency.

That said, qualifying based on your citizenship, resident, or visa status doesn’t necessarily mean you qualify based on all criteria. Student loan refinancing lenders also typically have credit and income requirements.

This means that if you don’t have an established credit history — which is not always the case for international students — you may have a tough time getting approved on your own.

If this is your situation, it might be worth getting a student loan co-signer, such as a trusted family member or friend who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, to apply with you to help strengthen the creditworthiness of your application. This can be helpful because this person acts as backup for your application — and lenders now can also rely on the co-signer for payment. Even if you do qualify to refinance your student loans on your own, a co-signer could help you get a lower interest rate.

To help improve your chances of getting approved with more favorable terms, such as a low rate, it’s a good idea to choose a co-signer who has a stellar credit history and a solid income.

Two Things to Consider Before Refinancing Your Student Loans

Refinancing might not be the right option for everyone. Here are three things to think about before you make your decision:

You May Not Qualify for a Lower Rate

Your eligibility and interest rate are based on several factors, including your credit history and income. As such, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, even with a co-signer.

Also, if you already have a relatively low interest rate with your current lender, you may have a hard time getting an even lower rate.

Fortunately, some lenders, including SoFi, allow you to check your rate before you officially apply. This is done with a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit score.

You May Not Qualify for a Lower Rate

Your eligibility and interest rate are based on several factors, including your credit history and income. As such, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, even with a co-signer.

Also, if you already have a relatively low interest rate with your current lender, you may have a hard time getting an even lower rate.

Fortunately, some lenders, including SoFi, allow you to check your rate before you officially apply. This is done with a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit score.

Refinancing Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

As you think through your student loan repayment strategy, keep in mind that refinancing isn’t the end of the line. Once you complete the process of refinancing your loans, it’s important to still make sure you’re paying down your debt.

For example, consider getting on a budget and looking for ways to put extra cash toward your student loan payments each month.

Also, you could go with a shorter repayment period to save even more time and money on your debt.

The Takeaway

Be sure to check your eligibility requirements when it comes to refinancing student loans as an international student with private lenders. Also, consider adding a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to strengthen your application.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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