Taking out a loan as an international student

Niko Iliakis

Monday 11 February 2019

Things can be tough for international students. As if adjusting to a new country and keeping on top of your studies weren’t difficult enough, you also have to deal with all the usual money worries that plague most students.

And if you’re looking to take out a personal loan to ease some of that stress, we’ve got bad news. While many banks offer loans for non-residents, these are limited to non-residents with very specific visas - usually work or business ones.

Thankfully, there are alternative avenues, so there’s no reason to get disheartened just yet. Here’s a rundown of what you can do if all those transport and textbook costs are adding up quicker than you expected.

See if your uni offers loans

Attending university can be challenging, and unis understand this — that’s why they offer so many support services for students. Fortunately, some universities offer financial support too if you’re going through a rough patch while studying.

It’s not uncommon for unis to provide interest free loans to students, both domestic and international. Typically, these are reserved for cases in which financial hardship is preventing you from applying yourself fully to your studies, but can be used to cover medical costs and other urgent expenses too.

For example, UNSW offers loans of up to $1,500, but will consider offering up to $4,000 in special circumstances. Their repayment terms are as follows:

  • Loans of up to $200 should be repaid within two months
  • Loans of up to $500 should be repaid within six months
  • Loans of up to $1500 should be repaid within twelve months
  • Repayments for loans greater than $1500 will be negotiated between the uni and student

Sydney University and Macquarie University offer loans of up to $2,000, and the latter also offers emergency loans of $50 in cases where students are without funds for essential needs. UTS offers loans which are capped at $500. International students are eligible to apply for all of these.

To be considered for these types of loans, though, you’ll have to meet certain criteria. These usually come down to the following:

  • You’re currently enrolled at the university
  • You’re in good academic standing
  • You don’t have any outstanding debts to the uni, or are willing to consolidate small debts
  • You’ve been deemed capable of paying back the loan

You might also be asked to provide documents to back your application, such as bank statements, proof of income, and even budget spreadsheets. A chat with a support officer will also probably be in order.

Keep in mind though that not all universities do this, so you’ll need to ask around at the institute you attend.

Source loans from back home via your university

If your university doesn’t offer loans to students, or it does but you’re in need of a larger amount, they still might be able to help you. Several universities assist international students in sourcing student loans from their home countries.

UNSW can help international students apply for loans if they hail from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, or the UK. Students from the US have a few more options available to them, including a low-interest federal loans, private loans, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs education benefit program. UTS and USyd offer similar services.

So if you’re strapped for cash and want some help from institutions back home, give your uni a call to see what they can organise for you.

Ask your parents for help

If your family is well-off financially, or if the exchange rate is tipped in your favour, your parents might be able to give you a leg up. You just need to figure out the best way to get the money from their hands to yours.

One way is for them to make an international money transfer via a bank. Just keep in mind that it will take a few days to process, and a sizeable chunk of the money sent could be eaten up by fees if you’re not careful. Banks also tend to offer worse exchange rates than you might find elsewhere, so it’s worth considering some other options.

A more attractive alternative is using an international money transfer service. These are companies that specialise in transferring money between countries, and they do so quickly and cost effectively.

So if you’re on good terms with your folks and they’re willing to send some help your way, check out our international money transfer comparison page to make sure you get the best deal.

And for more tips on getting your finances sorted as an international student, check out our international student banking guide.

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