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,

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.


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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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3 thoughts on “Do I Have to Pay My U.S. Student Loans If I’m Never Coming Back to the U.S.?”

  1. Hello Tim
    I didn’t say I will not pay. I am asking for information. The reason I didn’t defaulted yet when many people would have is exactly that : I don’t want to affect the people who signed up for me. Each person has a differnt experience with their education. I am glad your wife found her education priceless. That is not the case for me. I think you feel pretty righteous about this and there is probably some American tax payer hurt there. But I remind you, I am also an American tax payer. The difference is that I get zero benefit from it. Only the shackles.

  2. There is not just the legal aspect but the moral aspect of this. IF someone cosigned for you, then they will be stuck paying for something YOU received. Not to mention if you default on your loans, that is less money for someone else who is deserving of it. Lastly, we, the US taxpayers, end up paying for it as well.

    My wife is a foreigner and we were very thankful for what aid she was able to get. Even though we are both tired of the debt, her education was priceless for her here. We have cut our costs every way we could and will finally pay off all her debt and school expenses this year. I personally wish they would go after money owed by international students aggressively.

    You got the benefit now pay up!


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