Eligible non-citizens can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) by using the Alien Registration Number (ARN) in place of the Social Security Number (SSN). Eligible noncitizens are U.S. nationals or permanent residents, or those covered by other provisions of immigration law. If you do not have documentation showing that you meet the criteria for an eligible noncitizen, then you are ineligible for federal student assistance and will not be able to complete the FAFSA® online.
Who is an Eligible Noncitizen?
To complete the FAFSA® as an eligible noncitizen, you will need documentation showing that you are one of the following:
- A U.S. permanent resident with a “Green Card”, officially called the Permanent Resident Card.
- A conditional permanent resident with an I-551C.
- Granted an I-94 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with status as a Refugee, Asylum Seeker, Indefinite Parole, Humanitarian Parole or Cuban-Haitian Entrant.
- A citizen of Palau, the Marshall Islands or Micronesia.
If you formerly held one of these statuses but you are now a citizen of the United States, it’s important to call the Social Security Administration (SSA) with that information as soon as possible to avoid delays in processing your FAFSA®.
Eligible Noncitizen with Undocumented Parents
Even if you are an eligible noncitizen, your parents may be undocumented. That makes completing the FAFSA® more challenging because you may not know how to answer the questions related to them or their income. Here are two specific considerations.
- Undocumented parents won’t have an SSN. You should enter all zeros in those fields. You may have to enter it two or three times to get the system to accept it.
- At the end of the FAFSA®, parents sign it electronically with a four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) that’s related to the SSN. If your parents are undocumented, print out the form and have your parents sign the old-fashioned way with ink on paper. Then mail it in for processing.
Students who are Not Eligible Noncitizens
If you are not a citizen of the United States and you don’t hold any of the documents that make you an eligible noncitizen, then you do not qualify for federal student aid. However, you may still qualify for some types of state assistance and funding directly from your school of choice. You should contact the financial aid office at your school to find out if you should complete the FAFSA®.
You won’t be able to submit the online version without an SSN, but some schools will accept a paper form with signatures and no SSN. Then they do their own calculations to figure financial needs. They can also use it to award in-house forms of student aid like scholarships or to set up payment plans. The financial aid office may also be able to direct you to other sources of help that you qualify for without citizenship status.
For eligible noncitizens, completing the FAFSA® is very similar to the process for citizens. If you do your research and have all your documents together, you should not run into any issues.