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Like a deferment, a forbearance temporarily postpones your federal student loan payments. Instead of specific qualifications, forbearance is granted at the lender’s discretion. In general, forbearance is typically granted when you are willing to make payments, but currently unable to and you do not qualify for a deferment. 

Your lender may grant forbearance when you:
  • are experiencing personal problems (ex. poor health or economic hardship);
  • are affected by circumstances such as a local or national emergency, military mobilization, or natural disaster;
  • have exhausted your eligibility for an internship deferment; or
  • are serving in a position that may qualify you for loan forgiveness, partial repayment of your loan, or a national service educational award.

Always exhaust your deferment options before applying for forbearance. Unlike deferments, there are no interest benefits on any of your loans while in forbearance. You are responsible for all of the interest accruing. 

You have the option to make interest payments while in forbearance or allow the interest to be capitalized (added to your principal balance) when the forbearance ends. 

Mandatory Forbearance

There are a few instances when your lender may be required to grant you a forbearance:
  • You are in a dental or medical internship/residency program
  • Combined monthly payment on your federal student loans equals or exceeds 20 percent of your gross monthly income
  • The federal government authorizes postponement of repayment because you are subject to a military mobilization, affected by a local or national emergency, or live in a federally-designated disaster area.
  • You are performing service for which you qualify for the following:
    • A national service educational award from Americorps
    • The Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
    • The Student Loan Repayment Programs administered by the U.S. Department of Defense

Applying For Forbearance

To receive a forbearance, call your lender. Most often lenders can/will accept forbearance requests verbally, especially if it is your initial request. Be prepared to supply them with information regarding your current situation including but not limited to: job status, employer information, and income. 

Occasionally you may be required to request forbearance in writing (typically dependent on delinquency status and/or length of request). Some lenders may also request documentation of your income. Each lender typically has a forbearance form you can complete.

Frequently Asked Forbearance Questions

Who is eligible to request forbearance?
All federal student loan borrowers. Approval of forbearance is at the lender’s discretion.

How long does the forbearance last?
It’s based on your lender’s discretion, and typically is adjusted based on your current situation. Most lenders will grant forbearance in increments of six months to a year, but it can be longer or shorter depending on your needs.

What is the maximum amount of forbearance time I can use?
This will depend on your lender. Most lenders will grant forbearance incrementally for up to two years, after which they will typically require good faith payments before considering any further forbearance extensions.

What qualifications do I have to meet in order to receive forbearance?
There are no specific requirements for forbearance. Approval is at the lender’s discretion. After reviewing the borrower’s current status, the lender will determine whether or not to approve the request. Typically forbearance is only denied if you have used two or more years of forbearance without making any payments or if you fail to provide income documentation if requested.