The basics
THE USA: Student Finances

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid


The FAFSA, pronounced ‘FAF-SA’, also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form that must be completed in order to attend any kind of higher education in America. It’s long, and it’s complicated, but it must be done especially as it can be a requirement for entry for international students. What’s the big issue with this form? Why is it required? Are their limitations for international students? A Hotcourses Editor answers the tough questions.


How FAFSA works

The FAFSA is an annual requirement for every American citizen that attends a higher education institution. By gathering the student’s information the government places the financial need on a scale that is judged by their family’s income (undergraduate study) as well as their own (graduate study). Nearly every US citizen is offered some form of financial aid. This however, works differently for international students. There are a few options for non-citizens to receive financial aid through the FAFSA, but the bottom line is that an international student on a student visa is not eligible for state or federal financial aid. However, certain universities in America may still require international students to fill out the FAFSA. This can be the case in order to prove eligibility for university funding that’s set aside specifically for international students. All enquires should be directed to the student’s chosen university’s financial aid office.


Aid for non-citizens

As stated above there are a few options for non-citizens to receive financial aid through the FAFSA. If you are not a citizen of the USA, in order to receive financial aid through the FAFSA, the student must be one of the following (courtesy of the FAFSA website):


·"Asylum Granted"

·"Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending"

·"Conditional Entrant" (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)

·Victims of human trafficking, T-visa (T-2, T-3, or T-4, etc.) holder

·"Parolee" (You must be paroled into the United States for at least one year and you must be able to provide evidence from the USCIS that you are in the United States for other than a temporary purpose and that you intend to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.)


Why it matters

The FAFSA can seem imposing and full of complex jargon, and it can be complicated to fill out for those that do qualify for financial aid as a non-citizen. Nevertheless, many universities in America will require international students to fill out the FAFSA in order to determine how much financial aid the university can provide/offer the student. If you’re required to fill out the FAFSA, be sure to contact your university of choice’s international office for support. A social security number is required to fill out the FAFSA, but international students are only allowed to apply for one if they have been granted work eligibility. The paperwork can take weeks to process, so be sure to start as early as possible and stay in close contact with the financial and international offices at the American university of your choice.


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