If you’re looking for international student car loans in the U.S., your options are limited. Traditional auto lenders typically require a credit history and a Social Security number, both of which are hard to come by when you’re not a citizen.
Fortunately, there are some solutions that can help you get the access to transportation you need. With an international student car loan, you can qualify with other metrics that are tailored to your situation.
In this quick guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about international student car loans. Let’s take a look
What you need to qualify for international student car loans
As a foreign student, you may not have the same financing options as your fellow students. But some lenders specialize in working with international students to help them get what they need.
“You do not need to have a certain immigration status to get a car loan,” says Adina Appelbaum, an immigration lawyer and blogger at Immigrant Finance.
“But auto loan companies may still ask about your immigration status and the date your visa expires. They do this to see if you can work and have income, and how long you will be in the country to pay the loan.”
Overall, here are some of the things you’ll need to get approved for an auto loan as an international student.
A drivers license
Since you can’t drive your new car without a license, you’ll need to prove to the lender that you can legally drive. Each state has different procedures for how to get a drivers license without being a citizen.
But in most cases, you’ll need one or more of the following:
- Form DS 2019: If you’re an exchange student, this shows your status and identifies your sponsor. It’s required to request a J-1 visa.
- Form I-94: This proves that you entered the country legally and shows how long you’re permitted to stay.
- Passport with visa: This proves your identity and that you’re eligible to live in the U.S. as a student. Note that you don’t need a visa if you’re from a visa-exempt country, such as Canada or Bermuda.
- Proof of U.S. residence: This can be in the form of a lease agreement, utility or phone bill, or bank statements.
- Social Security number: If you have one, bring your card. If not, you should be able to satisfy this requirement with Form SSA-L676.
- Form SSA-L676: You’ll get this form if you apply for a Social Security number and get refused because you don’t have the required documentation.
Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office before you gather your documents. That way, you don’t show up without everything you need. Also, note that you may need to take a written and driving test to get approved.
The only exception is if you have a drivers license in your home country and live in a state that will accept that license. Again, check with the DMV office to find out what you need.
All auto lenders require that you have auto insurance to get approved for a loan. After all, the vehicle is collateral for the loan. If you get into an accident without insurance, both you and the lender lose the value of the car.
Have your new driver’s license handy and contact your designated school official (DSO) to learn what’s required of you to get insurance. They can help walk you through the process and give you some ideas of auto insurance companies that you can reach out to.
Next, you’ll need to have a car in mind. This means that you should start shopping around for cars. Once you know what you want, request a quote from the car insurance company for that specific car. Then, once you’re ready to buy, set up the insurance to start on the date of the purchase.
Once you do this, you can get proof of coverage from the insurance company. You can then provide this to the lender.
In addition to the immigration documents, you may also need to prove you can afford the loan.
“You may be asked to provide your credit history, an employment letter confirming your salary, and proof of housing and insurance-related payments,” says Appelbaum.
You can typically provide proof of income through a pay stub, a W-2 form, or a letter from your employer listing your employment status, wages, and terms of employment.
Although some lenders do request your credit history, many understand that international students don’t have one and are willing to make an exception.
For example, 86% of international students who apply for an auto loan with Boro, have no credit history at all. Instead, the lender looks at your academic, financial, and personal information to determine whether or not to approve your application.
International Student Auto Loan Options
There are lenders willing to work with international students. Which lender you go with will depend on what type of vehicle you plan to purchase.
New vehicle auto lenders who lend to immigrants
If purchasing a new vehicle, there are lenders who will lend to non-US Citizens. You can compare your options by visiting SuperMoney’s auto lender reviews pages.
Private party purchase loans for immigrants
If you are planning to purchase a used vehicle from a private party, you will not be able to get a secured loan from a traditional auto lender. If you’re in this situation and need financing, you can see if you qualify for one of the immigrant personal loan options.
The bottom line
If you need a car to get to work or school, getting a car loan may be essential. Be sure to go through the process in order, so you don’t waste time. Start with your drivers license, shop for a car, get insurance, then apply for an auto loan.
Doing all of these things takes time. But it’s important to take more time to shop around for auto loans from several lenders before you apply for one. This can ensure that you get the best financing options available for your situation.
Then, once you’re approved, make your payments on time every month. Doing so will ensure that you keep the loan in good standing and enable you to build your credit history.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance writer and a credit cards expert who loves helping consumers and business owners make better financial decisions. His work has been featured in Time, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, CNBC, Success Magazine, USA Today, The Huffington Post and many more.