How International Students Can Get a Car Loan

Updated on April 12, 2024

At a Glance

  • Auto loans are available for international students in the U.S., with personal loans being a viable option for those considered high-risk borrowers by traditional lenders.
  • Requirements for the loan application include a driver’s license, auto insurance, and specific documentation like a finance qualification form, visa, employment letter, payment documents, and proof of lawful presence.
  • Stilt is a service offering loans designed for immigrants, including international students, without requiring a social security number or U.S. credit history.
  • Stilt provides a streamlined application process and low-interest rates for international students in need of a car loan.

The American way of life is appealing to many, but not everyone realizes how important vehicles are to this way of life. With more than 272 vehicles on the road, cars are a heavily institutionalized and an integral part of American society. If you’re one of the 1,095,299 international students on an F-1/OPT visa in the United States, there’s a very real chance you’re in need of a car.

But can international students get cars in the U.S.? Is there care financing for international students? Are there car loans for international students in the USA? The answers to these questions more are below. Read to learn more!

Are there International Student Auto Loans in the U.S.?

The short answer is “yes” there are auto loans for international students in the U.S. In theory, outside of federal student aid, international students and visa holders could qualify for most loans in the United States. The problem is that most lenders don’t want to work with non-U.S. citizens because they view immigrants as high-risk borrowers.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t get an international student auto loan in the U.S., though. Personal loans (discussed in more detail below) are a viable and immigrant-friendly loan option for international students who need a car in the U.S.

The 3 Requirements You Need for an International Student Car Loan

First things first: buying and driving a car in the United States. It’s definitely possible for foreign nationals, but the process of getting there is a bit lengthier. There are three things you need to get started:

  • A driver’s license
  • Auto insurance
  • An auto loan

You Need a Driver’s License – If you’re staying long-term, as in the case of F1, H1B, and H4 visa holders, you may apply for a US driver’s license. You must have the required documentation to apply at a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), including Form DS 2019, Form I-94, a passport with visa, proof of legal presence or residence, a Social Security Number or Form SSA-L676, and any other documentation required by your particular state DMV. For international students, the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has a detailed fact sheet and set of resources to help aid foreign students get a driver’s license.

You Need Auto Insurance – US law requires all drivers to have insurance. You will not be able to acquire an auto loan without it. In some states, you will not even be able to apply for a driver’s license without auto insurance. Luckily, there are few barriers for international students and expats who need to find auto insurance in the US.

You Need an Auto Loan – While some international students have the funds required to purchase a car outright, most do not. There are not a lot of financial institutions in the US that will provide an auto loan for international students or working professionals. The tricky part isn’t just gathering all of the required documents for the loan application. The required documents will vary from institution to institution and from state to state so it would be best to collect everything.

Required Documents for Auto Loan as Foreign National

To get an international student car loan in the U.S. as a visa holder, you will need to provide some specific documentation:

  • Finance Qualification Form
  • A visa
  • A letter of employment
  • Payment Documents
  • Proof of Lawful Presence

Finance Qualification Form – provide information about your employment, living, and financial situation.

Visa – Acceptable visas include F-1, H-1B, L-1, J-1, O-1, and TN, among others.

Letter from Employer – This should confirm your employment, salary, benefits, and terms of employment.

Payment Documents – Bring copies of your utilities, rent, phone bill, cable, medical/life insurance, etc.

Proof of Lawful Presence – These documents include a green card, driver’s license, EAD card or your visa.

How to Get a Personal Loan to Use as an International Student Car Loan

Stilt provides loans specifically-designed for the immigrant community in the U.S., especially F1 visa holders and international students. To borrower with Stilt all you have to do is:

Apply – The first step in taking an F1 student car loan with Stilt is to fill out our application online. There’s no cosigner, no social security number, and no U.S. credit history required to apply. Once you’ve applied, you’ll receive a decision with 24 hours.

Receive a Loan Offer – If your application is approved, you will receive a loan offer via email. From there, you will be asked to provide the relevant documents (which will vary by loan type but typically include things like your visa and proof of income). Once your documents have been uploaded, they’ll be reviewed. If your loan is approved, your funds will be disbursed and will enter your bank account usually within 48 hours.

Start Making Payments – Once you’ve received your funds, the only thing to do is start making monthly payments toward your loan.

Can International Students Get Loans Down Payments

Yes, international students can get loans in the U.S. to help cover the cover of a car down payment. In fact, a sizable down payment can lead to reduced interest rates and monthly payments as well as significant savings. To learn more about loans for auto down payments, click here.

What if I am Unsure about Buying a Car in the U.S.?

Buying a car is a large, expensive undertaking and it doesn’t always make sense for every international student. If you’re unsure if buying a car is the right move for you, you can check our guide about renting, leasing, and buying a car in the U.S. as an F1 student.

Next Steps:

The next and most important step is acquiring financing to pay for your car. While many Americans simply apply for a loan while at a dealership, if you’re a foreign national, you may have some issues.

While some banks may offer you an auto loan, most will not. You could try your luck, or instead, you could use a service like Stilt. Companies like Stilt help non-US citizens acquire low-interest rate loans. The founders of the company recognized how difficult it is to get a loan without a credit score, which is the case for most non-US citizens.

Stilt can help automate much of the loan or loan refinance process for international students or working professionals. No SSN is required to apply for a loan, the interest rates on the loans Stilt offers are low, and the company can help immigrants deal with currency conversions and fluctuations instead of having them ask their parents for money. Many of the common issues non-US citizens face when applying for a loan can be avoided by using services like Stilt.

Read More

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can international students in the U.S. get a car loan?

Yes, international students studying in the United States can often get a car loan, although the process may be somewhat different from what U.S. citizens or permanent residents experience.

What are the requirements for international students to qualify for a car loan?

To qualify for a car loan as an international student, you may need to meet these requirements:

  1. Valid Visa: You will typically need a valid visa that allows you to study in the U.S. Lenders may require you to provide proof of your visa status.
  2. Proof of Income: Most lenders will want to see that you have a source of income to repay the loan. This could be income from employment, scholarships, or financial support from family. Some lenders may accept a co-signer with sufficient income and credit history.
  3. Credit History: Building a credit history in the U.S. can be challenging for international students. Some lenders may offer car loans to individuals with limited credit history, while others may require a co-signer.
  4. Down Payment: You may need to make a down payment, which can vary depending on the lender and the cost of the car. A larger down payment can improve your chances of approval.

Can international students with no credit history get a car loan?

International students with no credit history may still be able to get a car loan, but it can be more challenging. Lenders may consider other factors, such as your visa status, income, and the availability of a co-signer. Some lenders specialize in working with individuals with limited or no credit history.

How can international students build a credit history in the U.S. to improve their chances of getting a car loan?

To build a credit history in the U.S., international students can take the following steps:

  • Apply for a Secured Credit Card: Secured credit cards are designed for individuals with limited credit or no credit history. They require a security deposit and can help establish a positive credit record.
  • Use a Credit Builder Loan: Some banks and credit unions offer credit builder loans, which are specifically designed to help individuals build credit. These loans typically have low borrowing amounts and are repaid over a short period.
  • Pay Bills on Time: Consistently paying bills, such as rent and utilities, on time can contribute to a positive credit history.
  • Apply for a Student Credit Card: Some credit card issuers offer student credit cards, which may be easier for international students to qualify for than regular credit cards. Use these cards responsibly to build credit.
  • Avoid Applying for Multiple Credit Accounts at Once: Multiple credit inquiries in a short period can negatively impact your credit score, so apply for credit accounts strategically.

Should international students consider co-signers for car loans?

Having a co-signer, such as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a good credit history, can significantly improve your chances of getting a car loan as an international student. A co-signer agrees to take responsibility for the loan if you fail to make payments. This reduces the risk for the lender and can lead to more favorable loan terms.

Are there any special considerations or restrictions for international students getting car loans?

It’s essential to understand the terms and conditions of the car loan, including interest rates, repayment schedules, and any fees associated with the loan. Additionally, some lenders may have specific requirements or restrictions for international students, so it’s advisable to shop around and compare loan offers from different financial institutions. Consulting with a financial advisor or an international student office at your university can also provide valuable guidance in the car loan application process.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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