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How to fill out the FAFSA if your parents are undocumented immigrants

Mother and daughter look at a laptop
Ariel Skelley/Getty Images
Mother and daughter look at a laptop
Ariel Skelley/Getty Images
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Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required if you want federal, state and some institutional financial aid to help you pay for college. But if you have undocumented parents, there are a couple of differences in the process that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Can students with undocumented parents receive financial aid?

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re eligible to receive federal financial aid regardless of your parents’ citizenship status. The same is also true for eligible noncitizens, including:

  • U.S. nationals, including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island.
  • Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau (the first two are only eligible for Pell Grants).
  • U.S. permanent residents with a green card.
  • Students with an Arrival-Departure record showing “refugee,” “asylum granted,” “Cuban-Haitian entrant,” “conditional entrant” (if issued before April 1, 1980) or “parolee” (if you’re paroled for at least a year and can prove that you’re in the U.S. with the intention of becoming a citizen or permanent resident).
  • Students who have a T nonimmigrant status or whose parents have a T-1 nonimmigrant status.
  • Battered immigrant-qualified aliens.

Unfortunately, undocumented students or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are currently not eligible for federal financial aid. However, students in these groups may still submit the FAFSA in order to receive financial aid through their state or college.

How to fill out the FAFSA if your parents are undocumented immigrants

With undocumented parents, the FAFSA process is the same as if your parents were citizens or permanent residents. You’ll still include their financial information in the application, which your school’s financial aid office will use to determine your eligibility for aid.

The difference is that instead of providing a Social Security number (SSN) for your parents, you’ll simply write 000-00-0000. Also, because your parents don’t have SSNs, they can’t create a Federal Student Aid ID to sign the application electronically, so you’ll need to print it out and have them sign it by hand.

Can undocumented parents get a parent PLUS loan?

Only U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens are eligible to apply for parent PLUS loans. Additionally, many private lenders require citizenship or permanent resident status to be approved for a loan.

Is it dangerous to fill out the FAFSA if my parents are undocumented immigrants?

Students whose parents are undocumented immigrants may be nervous to complete the FAFSA using their parents’ information. However, it is safe to apply; entering 000-00-0000 as your parents’ SSN signifies only that they don’t have a SSN, which can be true for a number of people living within and outside the U.S., undocumented or not. The application does not ask if they are undocumented.

Written by
Ben Luthi
Contributing writer
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer who loves helping people learn how to live life more fully. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Yahoo! Finance and more.
Edited by
Student loans editor