Do I Have to Pay My U.S. Student Loans If I’m Never Coming Back to the U.S.?


Dear Steve,

In 2004 I started a masters in creative writing program and took a federal student loan. At that time I had a green card, but I was not a citizen, and I was getting divorced. I started paying after the grace period in 2006, and in the promissory note I have the signatures of my then boyfriend and his mother, as references. When I applied for Federal Financial Aid, I don’t remember the letters now, Fafsa I think, the parents of my then husband signed. But I do not have this form so I cannot see what the signatures mean: are they guarantors, or referrals, I don’t know. I am now living in another country, in The Netherlands, I am an American citizen, but I am also still an Argentinean citizen, my country of origin. I am going through a burnout, so I am taking a break from working, I am self-employed, but I am still paying my loans, and to finish paying I have to keep going until 2029.

My question is: Can I stop paying since I do not have wages to be garnished (I am self-employed), and I never get tax returns, since I am self-employed I always pay something, and I am living in another country and I do not have family in the US and I don’t plan to ever return there, and if it will not cost me 2000 euros to get rid of the American citizenship, I will gladly get rid of it? What will be the consequences for someone in my situation, to stop paying the loans? What about the social security payments I have made during my stay in the US, which was 10 years? Will they take that? Or will they persecute the people who came out as referrals in my promissory note? Thank you!



Dear Maria,

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Realistically you have two options.

Option 1 – Income Based Repayment Program

You could enroll in an income driven repayments program like the IBR (click here) which can give you a payment as low as $0 per month based on your alternative income documentation you could provide. The pain in the butt aspect of this is you’d have to renew it every year to keep the plan. Otherwise you will be subject to your loan falling off the plan, the balance being larger, and you owing more.

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Option 2 – Do Nothing

If you are not planning to move back to the U.S. or earn U.S. wages then you can always just stop paying and default. There really is no international pursuit over these issues.

However, if someone else may be a co-signer then that person would be 100 percent responsible for the balance of the loan.

Bottom Line

I can’t tell you what to do. What I can do is present the options and let you make the decision. If you decide to go with the Option 2 Default approach it will not prevent you from coming to visit in the U.S. You will not be detained at the border.

If you wanted to get more information on your loans you can login to the National Student Loan Data System for the current official status on your loans and their balance.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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