How do I apply?
The easiest way to apply is to log into StudentLoans.gov and complete the "Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request", where you may be able to electronically transfer your tax information right into the application form. Alternatively, you can request a paper application from your loan servicer.
No matter how you apply, you can just check a box asking for the plan with the lowest payment you qualify for. These plans are always available for free - you never have to pay a fee to enroll.
When applying for IDR (and each year after you enter IDR), you will be required to provide income information. If your income hasn't changed much since you filed your last federal tax return, you will be asked to provide your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) electronically, by submitting a paper tax return, or by submitting an IRS tax return transcript. But if you had a significant change in income that is not reflected in your most recent tax return (e.g., if you lost your job or got a large raise), you will be asked to provide documentation of your current income (e.g., pay stubs). If you don't earn any taxable income, you can certify that on the application form.
If you apply online, you don't have to know the name of your loan servicer - the system will let you know if you need to take any additional steps.
You can change federal loan repayment plans at any time. For example, if you're already in Income-Based Repayment (IBR), you can switch into Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), which may lower your monthly payments and shorten the total time you have to repay. However, if you switch from IBR or another income-driven plan into REPAYE, any unpaid interest will capitalize (i.e., be added to your loan principal), causing interest to accrue on a higher loan balance. Also, if you have to consolidate your FFEL loans to make them eligible for REPAYE, any IBR payments you made before consolidating will not count toward your maximum repayment period in REPAYE.