What is an Eligible Noncitizen?

An eligible noncitizen is someone who qualifies for federal student financial aid but is not a citizen of the United States. These students must meet some specific criteria. Eligible non-citizens complete the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) just like citizens of the United States. However, these applicants use their nine-digit Alien Registration Number instead of a Social Security Number.

How Do I Qualify for Financial Aid as an Eligible Noncitizen?

To be eligible for federal student financial aid, you have to be either a citizen or an eligible noncitizen.

To qualify as an eligible noncitizen, you must be:

  • A permanent resident with a “green card,” also known as a Permanent Resident Card. Before you apply, make sure your status has not expired and renew if you need to.
  • Conditional permanent resident. If your status has expired, you are no longer eligible.
  • Holder of an Arrival-Departure Record with any of these designations: refugee, asylum granted, indefinite parole, humanitarian parole, or Cuban Haitian entrant. You are eligible regardless of the expiration date on your documents.
  • Citizens of the Republic of Palau (PW), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MH), or the Federated States of Micronesia (FM).
  • United States national.
  • Holder of a T-visa, which is granted to victims of human trafficking.
  • Child of a parent who holds a T-1 nonimmigrant status.
  • Battered immigrant-qualified alien, which means you are a victim of abuse by a spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident. You may also qualify as the child of such a person under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
  • Qualifying Native American students born in Canada under the Jay Treaty.

The following types of documents do not qualify you as an eligible noncitizen, so if you only have these, you do not meet the criteria for federal student aid.

  • A Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence.
  • An F-1 or F-2 nonimmigrant student visa.
  • A J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant Exchange Visitor Visa.
  • A G series visa related to international organizations.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Undocumented students covered by DACA are not eligible for federal student aid. This group is a subset of the population often called “Dreamers” and is made up of young men and women who were illegally brought to the country as children.

However, DACA students may still be eligible for state aid, scholarships, and assistance directly from the school. People covered by DACA should consult the school they want to attend to find out how to get access to those sources. The FAFSA® may still be required to receive non-federal aid.

Parental Immigration Status

The immigration status of your parents is not a consideration when determining your status as an eligible nonresident. In fact, that question is not even on the FAFSA®.

If your parents are illegal residents or foreign citizens, you should not enter a made-up social security number for them in order to complete your application. Instead, the FAFSA® asks that students enter “000-00-0000” as their parent or parents’ social security number.

It is best that both students and parents be truthful about their citizenship information on the FAFSA®. Your information will be confirmed with the relevant government departments before your FAFSA® can be processed. However, students and parents should not be worried that their citizenship information will result in deportation or other punishments associated with illegal immigration into the United States.

Federal student financial aid is a necessity for many students to get a higher level of education. Those who are not citizens of the United States may assume that they are not eligible, but that’s not absolute. Check with your school of choice for help in determining what financial aid you are eligible to apply for.