LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff | Aug 22, 2014

Student loans and non-US citizens

Although access to a public school education is guaranteed whether you’re a documented or undocumented immigrant, there are no government guarantees for obtaining a college education. If you have immigrated to the United States and wish to pursue additional education, you have the option to either pay for an education outright (which can be expensive) or apply for a school loan, although eligibility is often affected by your immigration status.

The following are some frequently asked questions regarding immigration status and student loans.

How do I qualify for a school loan?

First, you’ll want to apply for admission at a college. Once accepted, you can contact your institution’s financial aid office. Even undocumented immigrants, while not eligible for federal aid, may be able to qualify for scholarship opportunities. Financial aid is available for eligible noncitizens and others who qualify. If you are an eligible noncitizen there are more options available.

Who is an "eligible noncitizen"?

An eligible noncitizen can be a US national, US permanent resident, a refugee, or a holder of a T-visa (victims of human trafficking). If you meet any of these criteria you may be eligible to receive federal student aid.

What states offer financial aid to undocumented students?

To date, California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington offer financial aid to undocumented students. Additionally, a total of 18 states have passed legislation extending in-state tuition for undocumented students.

However, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana have passed legislation that “specifically prohibits undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates.” According to The Columbus Dispatch, undocumented immigrants with temporary legal status may be able to pay in-state tuition rates in Ohio.

Is there federal student aid for non-US citizens?

Yes. However, you will need to do some research to find these opportunities. A good place to start is with your school’s financial aid office and perhaps even an academic advisor might be able to help. In general, federal student aid for non-US citizens may be available for permanent residents (those immigrants with a green card). Undocumented students are not eligible for federal student aid.

Are DACA students eligible for federal aid?

At this time, students who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are not eligible for federal aid. You can submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and although you will not be granted federal aid, they will often provide some alternative resources.

You may be eligible for state or college aid. Check with your school’s financial aid office for more information.

What other resources are there for non-US citizens seeking higher education?

There are many resources for non-US citizens in need of financial aid. Some schools provide assistance to all students regardless of their immigrant. You should check with your school’s financial aid department for assistance.

Other sources for immigrants seeking financial aid to attend school include the US Department of Education - Federal Student Aid, where you will find answers to some commonly asked questions. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center also provides articles, links, and other resources aimed at educating immigrants. You will find information as varied as financial aid to new legislation affecting immigrants and other topics.

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