An estimated eight percent of undergraduate students in the United States are not native citizens. While they are looking to build a life in the U.S. through higher education, many encounter obstacles to funding their college tuition. Immigrant students can obtain financial aid, but the process can be confusing and overwhelming – leaving many foreign-born students to give up on their dreams of a college diploma. The following is some helpful information for immigrant students seeking financial aid.
According to Department of Education guidelines, students are eligible to receive federal financial aid if they:
- Are a citizen of: the Republic of Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia
- Are a conditional permanent resident
- Are a permanent resident possessing a permanent resident card (Green card)
- Are some other type of eligible noncitizen including a person with refugee status, asylum, or someone eligible for humanitarian parole
Immigrant students who meet any of these criteria earn rights under the United States education system. They can take out government student loans, earn federal grants, and participate in work-study opportunities to offset education costs.
Tax Documentation and Financial Aid Applications
Some foreign-born students encounter challenges accessing these benefits even if they meet the established criteria. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms ask for a social security number, alien registration number, and certain tax information.
Yet many immigrants do not have tax returns. In that case, they should indicate on their FAFSA forms their special circumstances and work with a college financial aid employee to obtain the necessary documentation to complete financial aid applications. An experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyer can also provide good immigration law guidance.
Parental Status and Financial Aid Information
Some immigrant students choose to forego crucial federal loans and grants because they fear having to disclose their parents’ undocumented status. While it is uncommon for immigration agencies to request student FAFSA information, the law does require the Department of Education to hand it over if requested. For applicants that are over 18 or meet other criteria, they can choose to list themselves as independent. This way they are not required to disclose any household or financial information about their parents.
Residency Requirements and State Colleges
Some students look to attend in-state schools for the convenience and the financial discounts it offers state residents. However, some aspiring students are unable to prove residency for the number of years required by their preferred institution. Immigration experts recommend that students reach out to their dean and explain their situation. Some universities are willing to offer more flexibility for promising students.
DACA and Financial Aid
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) is an Obama-era effort designed to protect undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children. DACA is a renewable status allowing eligible individuals to work and go to school in the U.S. However, DACA does not allow recipients to obtain financial aid. State laws regarding undocumented immigrants and in-state tuition vary. In some states, it is left to the discretion of the college or university.
Private Loans and College Tuition
One additional option for immigrant students who are ineligible for federal aid is a private loan. These loans generally require applicants to meet certain basic criteria and to have a creditworthy co-signor who is a United States citizen or permanent resident. Consult a Philadelphia immigration lawyer and a financial aid expert at your college of choice to assist you with these important decisions.
Philadelphia Immigration Attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Immigrants Pursue Higher Education
Your eligibility for federal aid depends upon many different factors. For Philadelphia immigration advice regarding your education and other important matters, contact the respected immigration law firm of Surin & Griffin, P.C. Call 215-925-4435 or submit an online contact form to schedule a consultation with a qualified and dedicated immigration lawyer in Philadelphia.