Loans for international students

Find out which loans you can get as an international student or migrant and how to improve your chances of getting approved.

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If you’re an international student or migrant, you might be able to apply for a loan as long as you’re a UK resident and have a UK bank account. In this guide, we’ll look at the loan options available and which could be right for you.

Can a non-UK resident get a loan?

If you’re a migrant worker who has just moved to the UK or you’re studying here as an international student, you might find it harder to get accepted for a loan compared to someone who has lived in the UK for a number of years.

However, the good news is there are still options open to you.

If you can provide evidence of a permanent address, have a UK bank account and proof of a visa, you may still be able to get a loan, even if you’re a non-UK resident.

Many providers include details about their policy for non-UK applicants, so check the eligibility criteria carefully. The application process will be the same as for UK citizens, but you may need to provide more paperwork, and you could be offered a different rate than the advertised one.

How long do I have to live in the UK to get a loan or credit?

Lenders typically like to see at least 2 to 3 years’ worth of UK address history when you apply for a loan or any other form of credit. However, some specialist lenders may be more flexible.

Can international students get loans in the UK?

If you’re a non-EU/EEA international student, you won’t be eligible for a loan from the UK government like local students. Students coming from the EU/EEA and Switzerland may be able to get help from the UK government if they meet certain criteria. But whatever your situation, there are several other educational loans and finance options that you may be able to apply for.

In some cases, you may be able to apply for a loan in your home country to use for study in the UK, whether this is from a particular scheme or even your local bank.

Individual countries have different schemes in place, so it’s worth researching to find out what you might qualify for.

What options are available to me as an international student?

This depends on where you’re moving from and your personal circumstances. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • UK government support

    If you’re an EU resident who has moved to the UK to study, you may be eligible for a government Tuition Fee Loan to support you during your studies – it’s quick and easy to check using this online form. How much you’ll get will depend on how much your university or college charges, whether you’re studying at a publicly or privately funded university or college, and when you started your course.

    To be eligible, you’ll need to have been living in the UK, the European Economic Area (EEA), Overseas Territories or Switzerland for the past 3 years and have settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme. You may also be able to apply if you are a family member of a person with settled status in the UK. If you’re eligible for the Tuition Fee Loan, you might also be eligible to receive additional funds to help with your living costs through the Maintenance Loan.

  • Support from another government

    If you’re a US student planning to study in the UK, for example, you might qualify for a Study Abroad Loan or a Foreign Enrolled Loan. Study Abroad Loans are available for those enrolled in a US school and studying abroad on a short-term programme. Foreign Enrolled Loans are for US students planning to study full-time at an overseas university.

  • Hardship funds

    Many educational authorities in the UK offer students the ability to take a loan from their hardship fund. These rates will likely be more affordable than many other options on this list. However, to apply, you must be in genuine hardship due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s advisable to check whether your college or university provides this and what the qualifying criteria is before exploring other avenues.

  • Student overdrafts

    Many student bank accounts offer a large overdraft which remains interest-free for the duration of your education (and if you’re lucky, for a short period after graduation too). However, in some cases, international students are not eligible for this perk. The interest tends to rocket a year or so after you’ve graduated, so it’s a good idea to pay off your debt as soon as possible.

  • Student credit cards

    Most banks that provide dedicated student accounts also offer student credit cards. Typically, you need to hold a student account with the bank to apply for its student credit card. Credit cards can help you avoid overdrafts or other borrowing costs by giving you up to 55 days interest-free to pay for your purchases. It’s smart to pay off your balance before this ends. Otherwise, interest is backdated to when you made the purchases.

  • Loans from specialist lenders

    Alternatively, you might qualify for a loan from a specialist lender like Lendwise. Lendwise accepts international students, provided you meet set criteria. You can borrow between £5,000 and £100,000 to be repaid over an agreed period of up to 10 years after graduation (if you take a full-time course).

Alternatives to loans for international students

As well as the borrowing options mentioned above, there are a few alternatives to consider:

  • Part-time or full-time work

    One option is to get a job and pay your way through your studies. Choosing a part-time role will be more practical, but it won’t pay as much as a full-time role. Ideally, you want a job that’s flexible and can help you manage your academic commitments as well. This might mean looking for evening or weekend work.

  • Scholarships, bursaries and grants

    Another option is a scholarship, bursary or grant, if you qualify. You’ll need to do your research carefully – check the opportunities and eligibility criteria specific to your place of learning and prepare a comprehensive application. Take a look at the British Council Study UK website to get started.

PhD funding options for international students

If you plan to study for your PhD in the UK, several funding options are available. These include:

  • PhD studentships

    Many UK PhDs are advertised as specific projects with funding already attached. This usually applies to STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) subjects, but it might be available in other subjects such as Humanities. You’ll need to apply for one of these PhDs in the same way you’d apply for a job, and if accepted, you’ll receive a salary to do the research. This usually covers tuition fees and living costs, although international students will only get enough funding to cover the UK student rate of tuition fees. As international students pay a higher rate of tuition fees, you’ll need to cover the remaining sum yourself. International students are eligible for PhD funding through Research Council studentships, which is supported by UK Research and Innovation.

  • PhD scholarships and grants

    You might also be able to get funding through a scholarship or grant. These are not usually linked to a particular PhD programme or university and tend to be funded by the UK government or independent charities. However, some universities also provide their own grants and scholarships. There are also a large number of PhD scholarships and grants designed for students of particular nationalities. These are often exchange schemes that are set up to send PhD students from a partner country to the UK.

How do I get a loan as a new UK resident?

When deciding whether to let you borrow, lenders run a credit check to assess your credit history. They do this to establish how reliable you are as a borrower. The higher your credit score, the more likely you will get accepted.

Unfortunately, your credit history can’t be transferred from one country to another. This means that UK lenders won’t see how well you’ve handled credit in the past. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help increase your chances of getting accepted for a loan and boosting your credit score.

For a start, it can be worth contacting your old bank to see if it has any branches in the UK. If it does, you may find it easier to get a loan through that particular bank as it will already have your financial record. If your bank doesn’t have any UK branches, it can still be worth getting in touch to ask for a reference that you can use when you apply for a loan elsewhere.

What options are available to me as a new UK resident?

Below are some of the borrowing options you might want to consider. Make sure to compare all these options to find the one that represents the best deal for you:

  • Refugee integration loan

    If you are over 18 years old and either are a refugee or have humanitarian protection, or you’re a dependant of a refugee or someone with humanitarian protection, you can apply for the refugee integration loan. Through the loan, you can borrow between £100 and £500 (or £100 and £780 if you apply with a partner) to pay for a housing deposit or rent, household items, household bills or education and training for work. Integration loans are interest-free, and you only pay back what you borrow, but you must make regular payments.

  • Loans from specialist lenders

    The UK lending market has plenty of innovative brands finding new ways to say “yes” to responsible borrowers. This might involve connecting your account through open banking, so that would-be lenders have more than just a credit score to go on (check out Drafty, for instance). Pretty much all decent lenders in the UK now offer an eligibility checking service, so you can find out before you apply whether your application would be likely to succeed. These are a fantastic tool, because they stop you from damaging your credit score further by making unnecessary applications. Comparison sites offer eligibility checkers that can check your chances of approval for multiple loans in a single go (check out our eligibility checker!), which saves time and hassle.

  • Credit-builder credit cards

    These cards are aimed at applicants with a poor or limited credit rating, which you’ll likely have if you’ve just entered the UK. These have higher interest rates than traditional credit cards and are unlikely to include 0% introductory deals, but they offer you the chance to build your credit rating with each timely payment. Both students and non-students are eligible to apply for credit builder cards.

  • Short term loans

    There are some personal loan companies that will approve migrant applicants or those with a low credit score, although the rates offered might be higher than those offered to a more creditworthy applicant. Payday-style loan companies offer short-term loans, typically over terms from 1 to 6 months, with relatively lenient application criteria. However, these have eye-wateringly high interest rates attached, so they should be considered as an absolute last resort.

Can I get a loan with no credit history?

While it’s much harder, nowadays, a number of online lenders make lending decisions based on your banking transaction data (through open banking), as opposed to on your credit score alone.

How can I improve my credit score as a UK migrant?

If you haven’t already, you can check your own credit score for free. There are a number of steps you can take to improve your credit score as a UK migrant:

  • Get on the electoral roll. Once you’ve found a home in the UK, register to vote in the UK at www.gov.uk/registertovote (you’ll be eligible if you’re an EU or qualifying Commonwealth citizen resident in the UK, or you become a UK citizen. EU citizens can only vote in local elections). Lenders use the electoral roll to verify who you are.
  • Find employment. Lenders look more favourably on you if you have a regular job and a steady income.
  • Open a UK bank account. This enables you to receive your salary and pay bills. It’s a good idea to set up a few direct debits and ensure they are paid on time.
  • Get your name on household bills. Utility bills and mobile phone contracts are a form of credit, so make sure some accounts are in your name. By paying these bills on time, your credit score should improve.
  • Use credit wisely. If you get accepted for a credit card or loan, always make your payments on time. Never exceed your credit card limit, and ideally, pay off your balance in full each month.
  • Space out applications by 3 to 6 months. Making multiple credit applications in a short time can negatively impact your credit score, as it can make lenders think you’re desperate for credit.
  • Regularly check your credit record. By doing so, you’ll see if your credit score has improved. It also enables you to check if there are any mistakes on your report, which you should get corrected.
  • Consider a free credit-boosting service. Companies like LOQBOX have developed a service to boost your credit score while you save. These aren’t a solution if you need to borrow money right now, but if you can sit tight for 6 to 12 months, they could make it easier and cheaper for you to borrow in the future.
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Dos and don’ts of loans for non-UK citizens

Do:

Don’t:

  • Apply for credit without being confident in your chances of approval first.
  • Borrow more than you can afford to pay back.
  • Borrow money to fund unnecessary purchases.
  • Make multiple credit applications in a short time.
  • Miss your repayments.

Bottom line

While it might be more difficult to get a loan if you’ve only recently moved to the UK, options are still available. To improve your chances of success, it’s important to take steps to get your credit score up to scratch and do your research to see which type of loan you are more likely to qualify for.

While lending criteria can vary dramatically from company to company, to be eligible for a personal loan in the UK, you’ll almost certainly need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Be a UK resident
  2. Have a UK bank account
  3. Have a regular income
  4. Be able to afford the repayment schedule

Personal loan cost illustrations

Loan amount: £3,000

  • Loan term: 3 years
  • Interest rate: 10%
  • Monthly repayment: £96
  • Total interest: £463

Loan amount: £3,000

  • Loan term: 3 years
  • Interest rate: 24%
  • Monthly repayment: £114
  • Total interest: £1,108

Image of a man with laptop and caption: the average APR of a £5,000 loan is around 8%.

Other frequently asked questions

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