Eligible Noncitizen College Budgeting

Many non-U.S. citizens believe they can’t get aid to pay for college simply because they’re not a citizen of this country. However, that’s not always the case. If you’re a noncitizen, this checklist will assist you in learning the circumstances that let you qualify for federal student aid, including being a U.S. national, a permanent resident with a green card, and more. With this information, you can create a proper budget to help you afford college.

Non-U.S. Citizens Eligible for Aid

If you’re an eligible noncitizen, you do qualify for federal financial aid. To meet these criteria, you must fall into one of the following categories:

  • You’re a U.S. national, which includes natives of Swains Island and American Samoa
  • You’re a citizen of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau
  • You’re a permanent resident with a Permanent Resident Card, Alien Registration Card I-551, also known as a “green card”
  • You’re a conditional permanent resident with an I-551C card
  • You have an Arrival-Departure Record (I–94) from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services or Immigration and Naturalization Service that shows any of the following:
    • refugee
    • asylum granted
    • Cuban-Haitian entrant
    • parole
  • You hold a T nonimmigrant status, also known as a “T-visa”
  • You’re a battered immigrant-qualified alien

If you meet any of these criteria, be sure you fill out the FAFSA® paperwork to apply for financial aid.

Expiration Date on Documents

If the expiration date on some of your documents has passed, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re no longer eligible for financial aid. An expired green card isn’t always an indication that your status as a legal permanent resident has also expired. Instead, you might just have to renew the card. Additionally, if the expiration date on your Cuban-Haitian entrant document has passed, you’re still an eligible noncitizen.

Citizenship of Parents

If you worry that your parents’ immigration status or citizenship will affect your eligibility for federal student aid, you shouldn’t. FAFSA® doesn’t ask about the citizenship status of your parents, and this status isn’t taken into account when determining if you’re eligible for student aid.

Financial Aid for In-eligible Noncitizens

Even if you’re not an eligible noncitizen, there might still be some financial aid options available to you to help you study in the United States. Check with your country’s embassy or consulate in the United States and government offices in your country to see if they offer any type of scholarships.

Additionally, check with the college or university you’d like to attend in the United States to see if they offer any scholarships, grants, or work-study programs for international students. Financial aid offerings can vary widely from school to school, so it doesn’t hurt to ask numerous schools to see what they offer. Also, don’t discount smaller colleges during your search. These schools typically have lower fees, to begin with, and are usually eager to accept international students.

If you’re an eligible noncitizen and you’re putting together a budget to help pay for college, this checklist will help you understand if you’re able to apply for federal financial aid.