(NEXSTAR) – Following months of anticipation, the application for federal student loan forgiveness has officially opened. For the 8 million Americans who have already applied, only one obstacle remains: waiting anxiously for their student debt accounts to shrink, or even drop to zero.
The application, which starts the process toward debt relief, is available for those who qualify. Eligibility, outlined here, is dependent on your income and the student loans you have.
If you meet those qualifications, you can complete the student loan forgiveness application, found on StudentAid.gov.
Filling out the form is a simple process, taking less than five minutes in most cases (and maybe even shorter). Waiting for debt relief after hitting submit, however, will take longer – much longer.
Early on, Department of Education officials estimated relief would take between four to six weeks to appear on most borrowers’ accounts. As of Monday night, federal guidance puts that timeframe at “within six weeks.”
It’s unclear if relief will take longer for borrowers who have to provide more information – verifying your income or that of your parents are two of the reasons the Education Department may contact you.
Federal officials are encouraging borrowers to apply by mid-November to receive student loan forgiveness before payments resume in January.
As this student loan forgiveness process continues, here are three more dates you don’t want to miss:
October 31, 2022
If you don’t qualify for this federal student loan relief, you may be eligible for debt relief through a separate program. But, time is running out to apply under a temporary expansion to the program.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or PSLF, is meant to help borrowers working in the public sector have their federal student loans forgiven after meeting the necessary criteria. Last year, the Education Department enacted a waiver that rolled back certain eligibility requirements.
That waiver is set to come to an end on October 31, 2022. This means you need to have completed one of the actions outlined by the Education Department here or have submitted a PSLF form before November 1, 2022.
January 1, 2023
As mentioned above, the student loan payment pause is coming to an end on December 31, 2022.
If your entire federal student loan balance won’t be forgiven, this means regular payments and interest accrual will resume on January 1, 2023. Financial experts recommend preparing your budget for an expense millions haven’t had in nearly three years.
December 31, 2023
Procrastinators, rejoice. The application for federal student loan relief will remain open until the end of 2023. However, legal challenges to the debt forgiveness program could impact this.
Six Republican-led states are suing to block the plan, saying it oversteps Biden’s authority and will lead to financial losses for student loan servicers, which are hired to manage federal student loans and earn revenue on the interest.
A federal judge in St. Louis is now weighing the states’ request for an injunction to halt the plan. In court documents, the Education Department has vowed not to finalize any of the debt cancellation before Oct. 23.
President Biden acknowledged the legal challenges during a press conference Monday, saying that his administration feels the pending lawsuits won’t impact the loan forgiveness program.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.