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Part 2: How Do I Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Posted 9/30/2022

This is part two of a series of articles explaining Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Part one covered the basics of the PSLF program, the limited PSLF waiver, and what to do if you’ve been denied PSLF in the past.

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Phases of the PSLF Process

Meeting the requirements of the PSLF program takes 10 or more years. The process has three distinct phases. Each phase has tasks you must complete in order to qualify.

  • Phase 1: Prequalify – Ensure you have a qualifying employer, the correct loans, and the required repayment plan.
  • Phase 2: Repayment – Make 120 qualifying payments over the course of 10 or more years while filing two pieces of annual paperwork.
  • Phase 3: Post-Repayment – File your final PSLF form and receive loan forgiveness.

There are a lot of steps, but if you’re methodical and persistent, the potential payoff is huge.

Phase 1: Prequalify

Before you can begin making payments that count toward PSLF eligibility, you must meet the following criteria:

1. Have an employer that qualifies for the program

Full-time employees of U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government are eligible as are employees of not-for-profit organizations. Some examples include public school teachers, military personnel, and firefighters. Your position does not matter as long as it’s full time.

To determine your eligibility, learn more about which employers qualify and use the PSLF Help Tool to search for your employer. We recommend reviewing the tool’s how-to guide before beginning your search.

2. Have the right loans

The PSLF program requires you have Direct Loans. Log in to your Federal Student Aid (FSA) account on and see if yours qualify. If not, you’ll have to consolidate your existing federal student loans into a Direct Loan.

3. Have the right repayment plan

PSLF also requires you to be on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Find your current plan by logging in to your FSA account. If you don’t have an IDR plan you can apply for one online, or contact your loan servicer for free assistance in applying.

An IDR plan scales the amount of your monthly payment to match your income. You may discover your new payment is more affordable. Some borrowers pay $0 per month.

Phase 2: Repayment

Once you’ve confirmed your employer, loans, and repayment plan qualify for PSLF, you’ll begin the repayment phase. This phase has three tasks which must be performed multiple times.

1. Monthly Task: Make a Qualifying On-Time Payment

You’ll need to make 120 qualifying payments in total. The payments must be made over a MINIMUM of ten years. Each payment must be the full amount on your bill and be made no later than 15 days after your due date. The best way to ensure your payments qualify is to enroll in auto-debit payments through your loan servicer.

2. Annual Task: File a PSLF Form

You must complete and submit a PSLF form each year you’re making payments that count toward PSLF. This certifies your continued employment by a qualified employer.

The form must be signed and certified by an authorized representative of your employer. Check with your human resources department or direct supervisor to learn who is allowed to certify your PSLF Form.

3. Annual Task: Recertify Your Income-Driven Repayment Plan

IDR plans are tied to your current income and number of dependents. At least one of those figures is likely to change over the course of a decade. Therefore, you must recertify your IDR plan each year. Your servicer will remind you to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to be proactive.


Because each of these tasks must be repeated, it’s a good idea to set multiple reminders to complete them. You don’t want to lose out on PSLF because you forgot to file one piece of paperwork.

Phase 3: Post-Repayment

After you’ve made your 120th monthly payment, you’ll need to file a final PSLF form. You must be working for a qualifying employer at the time you submit the PSLF form and at the time the remaining balance on your loan is forgiven.

What if I Started Paying My Loans Before Applying for PSLF?

There is a way to credit past payments towards your total 120 monthly payments. It’s called the limited PSLF waiver, and it’s only available until Oct. 31, 2022. In part three of this article we’ll provide details on what the waiver is and how you can apply for it.

What If You’ve Been Denied PSLF Before?

Now is the time to reapply! The federal government has recently created a process that allows people like you to be reconsidered for PSLF. Visit to learn more.

Additional Resources

If you have additional questions or are want more information, here are some great resources: