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Ascent Blog

Can International Students Apply for FAFSA?

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You’ve always wanted to study abroad in the United States. Now, with several acceptance letters in hand, you have your chance. But then you look over the costs of your prospective schools and wonder how you will pay for it all. You start to read the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and think, “Can international students apply for FAFSA? 

Continue reading to learn how international students can apply for FAFSA and more.

FAFSA Eligibility for International Students 

FAFSA is available to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. According to the Federal Student Aid website, eligible non-citizens must fall under one of the following categories: 

  1. You must:
    • Be a U.S. national (including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island) or
    • Be a U.S. permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151 (Permanent Resident Card, Resident Alien Card, or Alien Registration Receipt Card), also known as a “green card”.
  2. You have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) with one of the following:
    • “Refugee” 
    • “Asylum Granted” 
    • “Conditional Resident Alien”
    • “Cuban-Haitian Entrant” 
    • “Conditional Entrant” (if issued before April 1, 1980) 
    • “Parolee” (must be paroled for at least one year)
      • see more on parolee requirements and recent modifications here
  3. You have a T-visa issued to victims of human trafficking, or a parent holds a T-1 nonimmigrant status. 
  4. You are a “battered immigrant-qualified alien” and are a victim of abuse by your citizen or permanent resident spouse. This includes being the child of a person designated under the Violence Against Women Act.
  5. You are a citizen of one of the following: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republican of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau. In this situation, some financial aid options may be limited. 

To complete the FAFSA, students must create an FSA ID using their social security number (SSN). International students that don’t meet the above criteria and don’t have an SSN are not eligible to apply for the FAFSA. 

How to Fill Out the FAFSA as an International Student 

Here’s how you can fill out your FAFSA as an international student if you qualify as a non-citizen. 

  1. Remember, the FAFSA opens on December 31, and the deadline to submit is June 30. 
  2. It’s also important to note that you’ll get more aid the sooner you apply, and you’ll need to submit a new application every year you take classes in the U.S. 
  3. Have your required pieces of documentation ready and complete the FAFSA form here. 

Other Financing Options Are Available to International Students 

If you aren’t eligible to apply for the FAFSA, additional funding opportunities may be available. 

Reach out to the financial aid office of your prospective school and ask how they can help you pay for your program abroad. Financial aid may be available from the state where your school is located or the school itself. Often, the school will ask you to complete a specific form from their office. 

Explore Private Loans for International Students 

Depending on what federal financial aid you’re eligible for and what your school offers, it might not cover the total cost of attendance. If that’s the case, consider private international student loans. Ascent offers cosigned loan options for international students. 

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