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Students must be U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens to receive federal student financial aid and state grants. A student is eligible for federal student aid even if his or her parents are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) includes questions to ask about the student’s citizenship status.
If a student has recently become a U.S. citizen, he/she should contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to ensure that his/her citizenship status is correctly associated with his/her Social Security number. Otherwise, when the U.S. Department of Education matches FAFSA data with the SSA, the SSA may report that the student is not a citizen and may be considered ineligible to receive federal and state aid.
For financial aid purposes, an eligible noncitizen is someone who meets one of the following criteria:
- A U.S. permanent resident with a Permanent Resident Card (I-551), also known as a green card
- A conditional permanent resident with a Conditional Green Card (I-551C)
- Other eligible noncitizen with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security showing any of the following designations: “Refugee, Asylum Granted” Parolee (I-94 confirms that the student was paroled for a minimum of one year and status has not expired), T-Visa holder (T-1, T-2, T-3, etc.) or Cuban-Haitian Entrant
- The holder of a valid certification or eligibility letter from the Department of Health and Human Services showing a designation of Victim of human trafficking
- A citizen of the Freely Associated States (i.e., the Republic of Palau (PW), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MH), or the Federated States of Micronesia (FM))
- A Canadian-born Native American under terms of the Jay Treaty.
- Battered Immigrants-Qualified Aliens and their children, as provided for in the Violence Against Women Act.
Students who have received a notice of approval to apply for permanent residence (Forms I-171 or I-464) or family unit status (Form I-797) are not eligible for federal student aid. Students with temporary resident cards (Forms I-688, I-688A or I-688B) are also not eligible for federal student aid.
If students indicate “eligible noncitizen” on the FAFSA, they should write in their 8- or 9-digit Alien Registration Number (ARN). Alien Registration Numbers may also be called A-Numbers. Students should precede an 8-digit number with a zero.
The U.S. Department of Education conducts an electronic match of the student’s name and Alien Registration Number with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A mismatch will cause the FAFSA to be rejected and may cause delays in the determination of and, possible, receipt of financial aid.
Students who list their Alien Registration Number may be asked by the colleges or universities to provide a copy of their Permanent Registration Card.
Students who previously were an eligible noncitizen, but who are now U.S. citizens, should indicate their current citizenship status on the FAFSA. They should not provide an Alien Registration Number on the FAFSA.
Some recently naturalized citizens may also be asked to provide a copy of their Certificate of Naturalization. It is legal to photocopy the Certificate of Naturalization for financial aid purposes, despite notices to the contrary on the document.
Note that eligible noncitizens who are Battered Immigrants-Qualified Aliens or the child of a Battered Immigrant-Qualified Alien will fail the match of FAFSA data with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. The data of victims of domestic violence is not included in the DHS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system to protect their privacy. College financial aid administrators may need to follow the instructions in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-10-07 to verify their eligibility.
Neither Citizen nor Eligible Noncitizen
If the student is not a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, the student is not eligible for federal student aid. For example, students who are in the U.S. on an F-1 or F-2 student visa, a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor visa, an M-1 vocational student visa, an A-1, A-2 or A-3 visa (foreign officials and their attendants), a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa (to work as a personal or domestic employee) or a G series visa (pertaining to international organizations) are not eligible for federal student aid.
Non-immigrant students who are in the U.S. on one of the following types of visas are not eligible for federal student aid: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, TN, TD, V, TROV, and NATO.
However, some such students may be eligible for financial aid from their college or state and should check with the college as to which forms they should complete. Some colleges will ask the student to complete the FAFSA as a convenient way for the college to get the data they need to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid.
Note that T visa holders are eligible to apply for federal and some state student financial aid. T visa holders should file a FAFSA and identify themselves as eligible non-citizens.
U visa holders are not eligible for federal student financial aid, but they may be eligible for some state aid programs.
Family Unity Status individuals are not eligible for federal student financial aid.
A student with an I-94 stamped “Temporary Protected Status” is not eligible for federal student aid.