Students who are immigrants, are undocumented, or have DACA

You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to get state financial aid or resident tuition in Washington. There are different ways to qualify for immigrant students—including those who are undocumented.

Financial aid

The first, best step for all students is to apply for financial aid. In Washington, there are two ways to apply and both of them are free. Students need to pick one:

  1. WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid)
  2. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) 

The WASFA is for students who aren’t eligible for federal aid because of their immigration status, including students who have DACA or are undocumented. The FAFSA is for U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and eligible non-citizens

Unsure about whether to apply for financial aid with the FAFSA or the WASFA? Take the WASFA Questionnaire

State financial aid 

State financial aid 

Washington has many different state financial aid programs for residents, including resident students who are immigrants, undocumented, or have DACA. In addition to residency, each program has its own requirements. Learn more on Ready Set Grad.

Scholarships

Scholarships

There are scholarships for students who aren’t U.S. citizens, and some are specifically for undocumented students. Colleges have the best information about what’s available to their students. Check with a college’s financial aid office, undocumented student center, or multicultural center.

Here are just a few: 

Resident tuition 

Tuition is less expensive for Washington residents. Non-residents pay a higher rate. At public colleges and universities in Washington, undocumented and other immigrant students may be able to meet the requirements for resident tuition. 

There are two categories of non-U.S. citizens who can qualify for resident tuition. Each category has different requirements.

  1. Undocumented students without DACA
  2. Students with current or expired DACA and other non-citizens

Without DACA

Undocumented students without DACA

Undocumented students and unaccompanied minors without DACA who meet the following requirements qualify for resident tuition. 

Requirements  
  • Graduate from a Washington high school with a diploma, earn a GED, or earn a diploma equivalent.
    • High school graduates must finish their full senior year at a Washington high school.
  • Live in Washington for at least three consecutive years (36 consecutive months) immediately before the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.
  • Continuously live in Washington after the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent until they’re admitted to college.
  • Sign an affidavit saying they meet the above requirements and that they will apply to become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they are eligible. The affidavit is filled out as part of the WASFA process.

DACA and other non-citizens

Students with current or expired DACA and other non-citizens.

People with the following statuses could be eligible for resident tuition.

  • Current or expired DACA status
  • A current Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • E3, H-1B, H4, L1, L2, T, or U visa status
  • Refugee status
  • Asylee status 
  • Temporary Protected Status
  • Withholding of Removal status
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
  • COFA (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau) residents. 
  • Other non-citizens may qualify. See WSAC’s residency page for more information.
Requirements 

The three most common situations to meet residency requirements are when students: 

1. Are financially independent
2. Are financially dependent
3. Have lived in WA at least three years before graduating high school or equivalent 

These are just the three most common situations, but there are many more. Find a complete list on WSAC’s residency page.

Financially independent students 

Financially independent students are defined on WSAC’s residency page. Financially independent students must: 

  • Have a domicile in Washington for at least one year immediately before their first term. 
  • Show that the domicile is primarily for purposes other than education
    • If students take more than six credits in a term, they must prove that education is not their primary reason for having a Washington domicile. 

Financially dependent students

Financially dependent students are defined on WSAC’s residency page. For financially dependent students, at least one parent or legal guardian must have a domicile in Washington for at least one year immediately before the student’s first term. 

Parents or legal guardians:

  • Who are undocumented can establish a domicile in Washington.
  • With B, C, D, F, H-1B1, H-2, H-3, J, M, P, TD, TN, WB, or WT visa status cannot establish a domicile in Washington. 
  • With another immigration status can typically establish a domicile in Washington.

Students who live in Washington for three years before graduating high school or equivalent

These students must: 

  • Graduate from a Washington high school with a diploma, earn a GED, or earn a diploma equivalent.
    • High school graduates must finish their full senior year at a Washington high school.
  • Live in Washington for at least three consecutive years (36 consecutive months) immediately before the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.
  • Continuously live in Washington after the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent until they’re admitted to college.
  • Sign an affidavit saying they meet the above requirements and that they will apply to become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they are eligible. Filling out the affidavit is part of the WASFA.

More resources for undocumented and other immigrant students

Employment

Employment 

State Work Study: Students with DACA and other students with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) are legally eligible to work. This means if they meet program, income, and residency requirements, they may be able to get a job through State Work Study funding.

Starting a business: Immigrants Rising offers entrepreneurship and freelancing resources to help undocumented students without DACA and students without an EAD start their own business.

COVID-19 

General COVID-19 information in multiple languages
COVID-19 healthcare and public benefits 

Getting healthcare and testing for COVID-19 will not affect the public charge test for immigrants who apply for a green card. The City of Seattle (multiple languages) has more information about public charge and public benefits in multiple languages.  

Cash assistance

Many colleges have emergency aid for undocumented students. Students should check with their school’s financial aid office, undocumented student center, or multicultural center to find out if they offer this resource.

Washington’s Disaster Cash Assistance Program (DCAP) is available from the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS). 

  • Once a year during a state of emergency, it can assist people in Washington who wouldn’t normally be eligible for cash benefits. 
  • It does not require a social security number to apply. 
  • It is not part of the public charge test. 
  • DSHS won’t verify immigration information with USCIS for people who are only eligible for DCAP.

The COVID-19 Relief Fund offers emergency funding for Washington’s undocumented population.

The Ingersoll Gender Center offers financial assistance to Washingtonians who identify as trans or gender diverse, regardless of citizenship.

Legal 

Legal resources for students who have DACA

Students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, can find information about the current status of this program and other DACA resources at OneAmerica. OneAmerica also has a Washington DACA Toolkit for undocumented people with or without DACA in Washington. The National Immigration Law Center also has DACA information.

Legal resources for DACA applications

Students who need to renew their DACA status can contact their college’s undocumented student center or multicultural center to find out if they offer DACA renewal funding. 

Students who live or work in Seattle can apply for DACA application funding from El Centro de la Raza.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services offers a DACA application fee scholarship. Anyone can apply.

DREAM Big Nevada offers a DACA application fee scholarship. Preference is for Nevada applicants, but they’ll consider people from other states.

Legal immigration services

Some colleges offer legal immigration services to undocumented and other immigrant students. Students should ask their school’s undocumented student center or multicultural center if this service exists. 

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project offers free consultations to qualified individuals. They have offices in Seattle, Tacoma, Wenatchee, and Granger. 

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has an Immigration Preparedness Toolkit with immigrant rights and other legal information.