International students looking to attend a college or university in the United States need to understand how the financial aid process works for them. Many of the types of financial aid that are available for citizens, nationals, and permanent residents of the United States are not open to international students. Therefore, international students must seek out financial aid from several other sources.
The most common types of financial aid that students in the United States receive are from the federal government. Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and a wide variety of other programs provide students with thousands of dollars of aid. Unfortunately, these programs are generally only open to U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents. If an international student is a permanent resident with an I-151, I-551, or I-551C card, formerly known as a green card, he can apply for federal student aid by filling out the FAFSA. The federal government also accepts financial aid applications from people with an I-94 showing a status of refugee, asylum granted, parolee, or Cuban-Haitian entrant; or victims of human trafficking who hold a T-visa. International students with an F1, F2, J1, or J2 visa are not eligible for federal student aid.
Many countries offer financial aid for students who are citizens of that country and want to study in the United States. This is because being educated in the United States and returning to your home country can help your country's economy. You should contact the cultural embassy or your country's ministry of education for information about financial aid programs. In addition, you should ask the administrators at your secondary school if there are local programs that send students to the United States for college. Often, local businesses or individuals sponsor students who want to be educated abroad.
Colleges and universities in the United States sometimes have special programs that give scholarships or grants to international students. These are most common at schools that are trying to attract a larger population of international students to increase diversity in the student population. Contact the financial aid office at the schools you are interested in attending to find out about international student financial aid. Another option is to ask the administrators at your secondary school to recommend schools in the United States that offer generous financial aid awards for international students.
International students can sometimes borrow money to help fund their education. There are two major ways to do this. First, look for student loans in your home country that can be applied to studying in the United States. Second, apply for student loans through lenders that specialize in loans for international students. A few organizations include The Education Resources Institute, Global Student Loan Corporation, and The Organization of American States. Their requirements vary, and some organizations require students to have a creditworthy co-signer in their home country or in the United States. The co-signer is someone who promises to repay the loan if the student doesn't, which decreases the lender's risk.