Student loan relief applications are live. But it could take a long time for borrowers to receive forgiveness.

October 18, 2022, 3:31 PM UTC
Young woman doing home finances
It could still be days or even weeks until borrowers see federal student loan cancellation reflected in their accounts.

The application for President Joe Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness program went live yesterday, with many borrowers eagerly applying. But it could still be days or even weeks until anyone sees the loan cancellation reflected in their accounts.

Last week, the Biden administration promised in federal court that no student loan debt would be canceled under the one-time program until Oct. 23 at the earliest. There has been no movement on that lawsuit so far, and no update on the timeline for actually processing the applications.

Additionally, those who are receiving automatic student loan forgiveness were notified Tuesday that it would not be processed until after Nov. 14.

When asked when the applications would actually be processed and debt relief reflected in borrowers’ accounts, the U.S. Department of Education pointed Fortune to the student loan relief FAQ, which does not currently answer the question.

But before the lawsuits were filed, the Education Department said applicants could expect processing to take four to six weeks. Still, the whole program could be delayed further or put on ice completely, depending on what happens in court.

On the other hand, it is possible that forgiveness could actually be applied earlier than the 23rd if the court denies the preliminary injunction requested by the plaintiffs in Nebraska v. Biden, which held a hearing last week.

The one-time student loan forgiveness program provides up to $20,000 of debt relief to borrowers earning below $125,000 (or $250,000 for couples). In addition to most types of federal undergraduate loan holders, those with Parent PLUS and graduate loans are eligible if they meet those income limits, as are students currently in school.

Borrowers will need to apply before mid-November if they want the debt relief applied before the payment pause ends next year. Still, the various lawsuits could delay the program, even for those who do apply by that date.

For the application, borrowers need to provide basic identifying information and self-certify their income. If the administration determines that proof of income is needed, administrators will contact the borrower after applying. If not, the person won't need to take any additional action.

More than 40 million Americans are eligible for the debt relief program, according to the Education Department. Over 8 million applied for forgiveness during the application’s beta launch over the weekend, the agency said.

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