To receive any federal or state-issued financial aid as a college student, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For students who are children of undocumented parents, the process for filing FAFSA can be extra intimidating. There are a couple of specific differences that children of undocumented immigrants will want to take note of when filing the FAFSA to get access to financial aid.

Can students with undocumented parents receive financial aid?

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can receive federal financial aid regardless of your parents’ citizenship status. The same is 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. intending to become a citizen or permanent resident).
  • Students with a T nonimmigrant status or parents have a T-1 nonimmigrant status.
  • Battered immigrant-qualified aliens.

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

How do you 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 aid eligibility.

The difference is that instead of providing a Social Security number (SSN) for your parents, you’ll 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. Mail in the signed document, and you can monitor if it has been received online. Once received, you should receive an email alerting you that your FAFSA is being processed. It can take up to two weeks after being received for this process to be complete.

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 about completing 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 an SSN, which can be true for some people living within and outside the U.S., undocumented or not. The application does not ask if they are undocumented, and FAFSA information is confidential and will not be shared.

What financial aid resources are there for students whose parents are undocumented immigrants?

Students whose parents are undocumented immigrants are eligible to submit the FAFSA and receive federal or state-provided financial aid. Additionally, you can borrow a Federal Direct Student Loan if you have submitted the FAFSA. Some universities provide special financial support to students with undocumented parents, and you can request information from the admissions office to determine what you are eligible for.

The bottom line

Children of undocumented parents who want to attend college can receive federal aid by filing the FAFSA, a safe process for you and your family. You can receive financial aid if you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. The process will require filling out the FAFSA correctly and submitting a physical signature but can be completed so that you can receive the support you need.

Frequently asked questions

  • Students of undocumented parents can attend college and may receive financial aid through federal and state programs after filing the FAFSA. As long as you are considered a citizen or an eligible noncitizen, you are eligible for financial aid, and you can attend college without financial aid if you can afford it.
  • Undocumented parents cannot create a FSA ID for FAFSA because they do not have an eligible Social Security Number. Instead, submit 000-00-0000. You will have to print out the application and have your parents sign it to finalize the form, as they will not be able to sign it electronically.
  • Eligible non-U.S. citizens including Green Card holders can fill out the FAFSA and be considered eligible to receive financial aid. Determine your status to see if your citizen status allows you to receive federal aid.