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Student Residency

Residency

Residency Updates

In July 2021, a new law replaced 2003's HB 1079 making it easier for all Washingtonians, including undocumented people, to get resident tuition and state financial aid. This law makes college more affordable, and many people who didn’t qualify before are now eligible.  

To qualify, students must meet all of the following requirements: 

  • Earn a high school diploma, GED, or diploma equivalent before their first term at the college determining residency. 
  • Maintain a primary residence in Washington for at least 12 consecutive months immediately before their first term at the college determining residency. 
  • Sign an affidavit saying they meet the above requirements and that one of the following is true:  
    • They will file an application to become a permanent resident of the United States (green card) as soon as they are eligible to apply. And that they are willing to engage in activities designed to prepare them for citizenship, including citizenship or civics review courses or 
    • They are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. permanent resident. 

Learn more in the "New requirements for students with any citizenship or immigration status" section below. 

Questions? Email residency@wsac.wa.gov.


Washington residents pay less for college 

Students who are Washington residents: 

Both U.S. citizens and non-citizens can be Washington residents, including undocumented students. In most cases, a Washington resident is someone who lives in the state for one year immediately prior to starting their college or program.  

But there are other ways to be a resident. The state has rules for how certain groups of people—such as tribal members or military veterans, service members, and families—can get residency. 

Information for students and families 

Find out how being a Washington resident student makes college more affordable. 

Tuition

Tuition

Washington resident students pay resident tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. Resident tuition is less expensive than out-of-state rates. 

State financial aid

State financial aid

The Washington College Grant, College Bound Scholarship, and other state financial aid programs are only for Washington resident students. Each state aid program has different program requirements. It is possible to get resident tuition at public institutions but not get state financial aid. Students should apply for financial aid to find out if they qualify.

Requirements

Requirements

There are several ways to be a Washington resident student. Students’ residency options depend on their citizenship or immigration status. See the sections below for more information.

How to apply for residency

How to apply for residency

In most cases, students don't need to apply for residency. This is because colleges and universities determine residency based on a student’s college and financial aid applications. The only students who should apply for residency are those who are told they are a nonresident but think they are a resident. These students should contact their college or university to find out how to apply for residency. The residency process depends on the student’s individual situation and whether they are attending a public or private institution. Some students may also be asked for documentation such as identification, student/parent tax returns, pay stubs, and rental agreements.

  • Public institutions

At public colleges and universities, a student’s acceptance letter will say if the student is admitted as a resident or nonresident. Students who are admitted as nonresidents, but think they meet student residency requirements, should contact their school’s residency officer

  • Private institutions that participate in state financial aid programs

At private colleges and universities, students who apply for financial aid will be told if they qualify for state financial aid programs. Students who do not get state financial aid due to residency, but think they meet student residency requirements, should contact their school’s financial aid office

Residency questions

Residency questions

Answers to student residency questions often depend on the student’s college or university. Because of this, students should contact their school if they have residency questions after reviewing this webpage. Public and private institutions have different residency contacts.

  • Public institutions

Students with residency questions should contact the school’s residency officer. Residency officers are usually located in the registrar’s or admissions office. 

  • Private institutions that participate in state financial aid programs

Students with residency questions should contact their school’s financial aid office.

New requirements for students with any citizenship or immigration status

A new law makes it easier for all Washingtonians, including undocumented students, to get resident tuition and state financial aid. It is open to all students, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Students who qualify:

Requirements

Requirements

To qualify, students must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Earn a high school diploma, GED, or diploma equivalent before their first term at the college determining residency.
  • Maintain a primary residence in Washington for at least 12 consecutive months immediately before their first term at the college determining residency.
  • Sign an affidavit saying they meet the above requirements and that one of the following is true:
    • They will file an application to become a permanent resident of the United States (green card) as soon as they are eligible to apply. And that they are willing to engage in activities designed to prepare them for citizenship, including citizenship or civics review courses or
    • They are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. permanent resident.

The first two requirements can be done at the same time or at different times, as long as they are both completed before starting at the college determining residency.
 

How to meet requirements 

How to meet requirements 

High school diploma, GED, or diploma equivalent requirement 

  • Any U.S. high school diploma, GED, or diploma equivalent meets the requirements of this law, regardless of where it was earned or whether it was earned before the student lived in Washington. 

High school diplomas earned outside of the U.S. 

  • Students with a high school diploma earned outside of the U.S. should contact their school’s residency officer (public colleges and universities) or financial aid office (private colleges and universities) to see if their diploma is equivalent to a U.S. high school diploma.

People without a high school diploma or GED

  • People without a high school diploma or GED must have an equivalent of a high school diploma. Students who are unsure if they have a diploma equivalent should contact their school’s residency officer (public colleges and universities) or financial aid office (private colleges and universities). 

Maintaining a primary Washington residence for 12 consecutive months

  • Students who live in Washington for 12 consecutive months before their first term at the college determining residency meet this requirement. Students who spend temporary periods of time outside of Washington during the 12 months also meet this requirement, as long as they maintain their primary Washington address. Students who are not sure if they have maintained a primary residence for 12 consecutive months should contact their school’s residency officer (public colleges and universities) or financial aid office (private colleges and universities).

Parent/legal guardian residency

  • This law only focuses on the student’s situation. It does not require that a student’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s) live in Washington.

Affidavit

Affidavit

The affidavit is a signed promise between the student and the institution determining residency. Students who sign the affidavit are promising the institution that they meet the new law’s requirements. Students do not need to disclose their legal status to sign the affidavit. They can sign even if there is no pathway to a green card under their current immigration status. 

How to submit the affidavit
There are two ways to submit the affidavit. Students should only choose one based on the financial aid application they use:

  • Option 1: Individuals who applied/will apply for state financial aid using the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).

WASFA-filers submitted/will submit the affidavit as part of the WASFA. The WASFA is for undocumented students, students who are not eligible for federal aid, and students who do not want to apply for federal aid. Students who are unsure if the WASFA is for them can fill out the WASFA questionnaire

  • Option 2: Individuals who applied/will apply for federal and state financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or who are not applying for aid.

FAFSA-filers or people not applying for aid will submit a form to their school. 

If a student signs the affidavit, schools should not ask for the following:

  • Proof of a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent (unless the student’s other paperwork shows the student does not have a diploma or equivalent)
  • Proof of maintaining a primary residence in Washington for 12 consecutive months (unless the student’s other paperwork shows the student did not maintain a primary Washington residence for 12 consecutive months).
  • Proof that the student has applied for permanent residency (green card) or engaged in activities designed to prepare them for citizenship.

Digital and print resources

Digital and print resources

One-Page PDF

This PDF is for undocumented communities and others who may be newly eligible. The PDF is in:

PowerPoint Slides

These slides explain how residency impacts college affordability. They also describe the new residency law. The slides are currently available in English.

Requirements for students with a qualifying immigration status 

There are two common ways to be a Washington resident for students who are U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, U.S. permanent residents, or who have a qualifying immigration status. Students who meet one of these options:

Requirements

Requirements

Option 1: Financially independent students

Financially independent students must: 

  • Have a domicile in Washington for at least one year immediately before the term they apply for residency.
  • Show that the domicile is primarily for purposes other than education--students can't take more than six credits in any one term during that year. 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. 

Option 2: Financially dependent students

For financially dependent students, at least one parent or legal guardian must have a domicile in Washington. They must have the domicile for at least one year immediately before the term the student applies for residency. 

Some parents or legal guardians cannot have a Washington domicile because of their visa status. Parents or legal guardians with B, C, D, F, H-1B1, H-2, H-3, J, M, P, TD, TN, WB, or WT visa status cannot have a Washington domicile. But, parents or legal guardians with another immigration status, including those who are undocumented, can typically establish a domicile in Washington.
 

Definitions

Definitions

Domicile

Domicile is a legal term used to describe a person’s true, fixed, and permanent home. A person can only have one legal domicile in the U.S. at a time. To establish a domicile in Washington, a person must prove physical presence in the state plus intent to permanently remain in the state. There are different ways to show proof of Washington domicile. Typical forms of proof include, but are not limited to:

  • Washington driver’s license
  • Washington vehicle registration
  • Washington voter registration
  • Lease, rental agreement, or mortgage in Washington
  • W2 or paystubs for Washington employer

Some residency options require people to have a domicile in Washington for one year. The one-year waiting period starts when a person completes the last action to establish a domicile.

Financially dependent students

Students who do not meet all of the requirements for financially independent students are dependent students. 

Financially independent students

These students must meet all of the following for the current and previous calendar years (calendar year means January–December):

  • Were not claimed as a dependent exemption on a tax return, regardless of age.
  • Did not receive significant financial assistance from parents, relatives, legal guardians, or others (except for a spouse), regardless of age and marital status.
  • Used their own income—or financial aid awarded in their name—to pay their living and tuition expenses.
    • Personal loans, Parent PLUS loans, gifts, and cash earnings are not income.

Qualifying immigration statuses

Qualifying immigration statuses

These two options are available to students with the following citizenship or immigration statuses:

  • Current or expired Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status
  • A current Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Refugee
  • Asylee
  • Pending Adjustment of Status (applied for green card)
  • An E3, H-1B, H4, K, L1, L2, T, or U visa
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status or Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status
  • Withholding of Removal status or Withholding of Deportation status
  • Citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) status
  • US citizen, US national, or US permanent resident (green card)
  • Other non-citizens may be in this group. Contact your college’s residency officer (public colleges) or financial aid office (private colleges) for more information.

Residency for military members, veterans, and dependents

The following individuals are Washington resident students. These students:

Current military members

Current military members

These current military members are Washington resident students:

  • Active duty members stationed in Washington.
  • Active duty members who live in Washington and are stationed in an Oregon county that borders Washington.
  • Active duty members stationed out-of-state who entered service as a Washington resident and maintained their Washington domicile.
  • Washington National Guard members (do not have to be on active duty). Washington also has a National Guard Postsecondary Education Grant for eligible guard members.
  • Military members on terminal leave from the uniformed services who are eligible for VA educational assistance benefits, had any period of honorable service, and had at least 90 days of active duty service. They do not need to live in Washington to qualify. 

Military veterans

Military veterans

These veterans are Washington resident students:

  • Veterans who live in Washington and are actively using the GI Bill® or other qualifying educational benefit to pay for at least one course.
    • The veteran can have a domicile elsewhere.
    • The veteran must have had 90 days of service in the active military, naval, or air service.
    • There is no time limit for when they must enroll after leaving the military.
    • The veteran must have been discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable (separation does not have to be from active duty).
    • The veteran must be paying for school using VA educational assistance under Chapter 30, 31, or 33 (38 U.S. Code § 3679 (a)(2)). These include:
      • Montgomery GI Bill® – Active Duty
      • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
      • Post-9/11 GI Bill®
      • Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Fry Scholarship
      • Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship
    • The veteran continues to receive resident tuition and fees for future courses as long as they are continuously enrolled at the same institution.
    • These veterans do not meet residency requirements for state aid.

 

  • Veterans who are eligible for VA educational assistance benefits and enter school within three years of separation from the military. They do not need to live in Washington, nor do they need to be actively using the benefits. 
    • Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service as a member of the uniformed services. 
    • Veteran must have separated with any period of honorable service (separation does not have to be from active duty).
    • Veteran must be eligible for one of the following VA educational assistance benefits:
      • Montgomery GI Bill® – Active Duty
      • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
      • Post-9/11 GI Bill®
      • Veterans Educational Assistance Program
      • Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program
      • Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship 
      • Yellow Ribbon Program
      • Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship
    • Veteran maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services unless the student is receiving VA educational assistance benefits.

 

  • Veterans who are entitled to Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.
    • They do not need to live in Washington. 
    • They do not need to enter school within a certain amount of time after separating from the military.
    • They do not need to be actively using the benefits to qualify.
    • Veteran maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services unless the student is receiving VA educational assistance benefits.

 

  • Veterans who were discharged from the uniformed services due to sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
    • They do not need to live in Washington.
    • They do not need to enter school within a certain amount of time after separating from the military.
    • Veteran maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services unless the student is receiving VA educational assistance benefits.

Military dependents

Military dependents

These military dependents (spouses, former spouses, and children) are Washington resident students:

  • Dependents of active duty members stationed in Washington or dependents of Washington National Guard members (National Guard members do not have to be on active duty). The dependent does not need to live in Washington. If the active duty member is stationed out-of-state, the student maintains resident student status as long as they are either:
    • Continuously enrolled or 
    • Admitted to an institution before the re-stationing and enrolled in the institution for the term the student was admitted.

 

  • Dependents of active duty members stationed out-of-state who entered service as a Washington resident and maintained their Washington domicile. The dependent does not need to live in Washington.

 

  • Dependents who are entitled to transferred post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits based on their relationship to someone on active duty in the uniformed services. 
    • Neither the dependent nor the military member need to live in Washington.
    • The dependent does not need to be actively using educational benefits to qualify.

 

  • Veteran dependents (spouse and children) using the Post 9/11 GI Bill® who live in Washington.
    • The dependent (and veteran) can have a domicile elsewhere.
    • There is no time limit for when the dependent must enroll after the veteran leaves the military.
    • The veteran must have had 90 days of service in the active military, naval, or air service. 
    • The veteran must have been discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable (separation does not have to be from active duty). 
    • The dependent continues to receive resident tuition and fees for future courses as long as they are continuously enrolled at the same institution.
    • These dependents do not meet residency requirements for state aid.

 

  • Dependents who are entitled to VA educational assistance benefits based on their relationship to a veteran. Neither the dependent nor the veteran need to live in Washington. The dependent does not need to be actively using educational benefits to qualify. Dependents must also meet all of the following:
    • They must enter school within three years of the veteran’s separation from the military. 
    • Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service as a member of the uniformed services.
    • The veteran must have separated from the military with any period of honorable service (separation does not have to be from active duty).
    • Dependent must be eligible for one of the following VA educational assistance benefits:
      • Post-9/11 GI Bill®
      • Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)
      • Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship 
      • Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship
    • Dependent maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to dependents of veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services unless the dependent is receiving VA educational assistance benefits.

 

  • Dependents who are entitled to VA educational assistance benefits based on their relationship to a deceased member of the uniformed services who died in the line of duty. 
    • The dependent must be eligible for one of the following:
      • Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program
      • Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship 
    • The dependent does not need to live in Washington.
    • The dependent does not need to be actively using educational benefits to qualify.
    • The dependent does not need to enter school within a certain amount of time after the veteran separated from the military.
    • For dependents with DEA, it must be due to the death of the military member.
    • The dependent maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to dependents of veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services unless the dependent is receiving VA educational assistance benefits.

 

  • Dependents of a veteran who separated from the uniformed services with at least ten years of honorable service (separation does not have to be from active duty). 
    • The dependent must enter school within three years of the veteran’s separation from the military (separation does not have to be from active duty).
    • The dependent does not have to be eligible for or be using VA educational benefits to qualify.
    • Neither the dependent nor the veteran need to live in Washington. 
    • The veteran must have had at least 90 days of active duty service.
    • Dependent maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to dependents of veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services unless the dependent is receiving VA educational assistance benefits.

 

  • People who live in Washington and are dependents of active duty members who live in Washington and are stationed in an Oregon county that borders Washington. If the active duty member moves out of Washington or is stationed outside of an Oregon county that borders Washington, the student maintains resident student status as long as they are either:
    • Continuously enrolled or 
    • Admitted to an institution before the re-stationing and enrolled in the institution for the term the student was admitted.

Documentation

Documentation

In addition to typical residency documentation, the residency office or financial aid office may ask for one or more of the following documents:

  • Certificate of Eligibility.
  • DD-214.
  • Leave and Earning Statement (LES).
  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.
  • Military ID. 

Tuition waivers

Tuition waivers

Veterans and their dependents may qualify for tuition waivers at Washington’s colleges and universities.

  • Veterans

Some schools offer tuition waivers to veterans. Students should check with their school’s veteran affairs office for more information.

  • Spouses, domestic partners, and children of veterans

All public colleges and universities in Washington waive all undergraduate tuition and fees (and give up to a $500 yearly book stipend) for children, spouses, and domestic partners of any of the following:

  • Veterans or national guard members who became totally disabled as a result of active military service.
  • Military members who are determined to be POW or MIA.
  • Military members who lost their lives as a result of active military service.

Both the dependent and the veteran must have a domicile in Washington (no minimum amount of time is required). The waiver has other requirements. Students should check with their school’s veteran affairs office for more information. 

Other ways to meet residency requirements

There are other ways to be a Washington resident student. See the tabs below for more information. 

Recent high school graduates

Recent high school graduates

Recent high school graduates whose parent(s) or legal guardian(s) moved out of Washington may be considered Washington resident students. These students:

To qualify, students must meet all of the following:

  • The student must have spent at least 75 percent of their last two years of high school in a Washington high school. They do not have to graduate from a Washington high school. 
  • The student’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must have had a domicile in Washington for at least one year within the five-year period before the student graduated high school.
  • The student must start college within six months of graduating high school.

Oregon residents

Oregon residents

Oregon residents who live on the Oregon-Washington border or recently moved to Washington may be considered Washington resident students. These students:

Specific requirements depend on the school and the student’s individual situation. Students should contact their school’s residency officer to find out if they qualify.

The colleges and universities in Washington that may choose to participate in this program are: 

  • Clark College
  • Columbia Basin College
  • Grays Harbor College
  • Lower Columbia College
  • Walla Walla Community College
  • Washington State University-Vancouver
  • Washington State University-Tri Cities

Tribal members 

Tribal members 

Tribal members who meet the following two conditions are Washington resident students:

  • Membership in one of the federally recognized tribes (list) whose traditional and customary tribal boundaries included portions of the state of Washington, or whose tribe was granted reserved lands within the state of Washington. 
  • For at least one year immediately prior to enrollment, students must have been domiciled in one or a combination of the following states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington.

These students:

Information for college staff 

The following section is for college staff who make residency decisions or who help students with residency questions.

Public institutions

Public institutions

Each public college and university has a residency officer. The residency officer uses state laws, rules, and guidelines to determine student residency. The financial aid office uses the residency officer’s determination to award state financial aid. Financial aid officers at public institutions should not re-determine residency. They should use the residency decision already determined by the residency officer. If the financial aid office sees conflicting information that makes them think the residency determination is incorrect, they should contact the residency officer.

Residency officers make the final residency decision. Other campus staff should contact their residency officer before giving students residency advice. 

Private institutions

Private institutions

At private colleges and universities that participate in state financial aid, the financial aid office makes the final residency decision. Other campus staff should contact their financial aid office before giving students residency advice.

Decision-making guidance

Decision-making guidance

Residency officers and financial aid administrators who need help making residency decisions should use the resources on this page. They can also use:

If they still need help, they can email WSAC.

Digital and print resources

TBA

Webinars

TBA

Student residency laws and policies

Student residency is governed by statewide laws, rules, and policies.  

Legislative foundation

Legislative foundation

Revised Code of Washington (RCW)

  • 28B.15.011 Classification as resident or nonresident student – Legislative intent.
  • 28B.15.012 Classification as resident or nonresident student—Definitions.
  • 28B.15.013 Classification as resident or nonresident student—Standards for determining domicile in the state—Presumptions—Cut-off date for classification application change.
  • 28B.15.0131 Resident tuition rates—American Indian students.
  • 28B.15.0139 Resident tuition rates—Border county higher education opportunity project.
  • 28B.15.014 Exemption from nonresident tuition fees differential.
  • 28B.15.015 Classification as resident or nonresident student—Rules

Washington Administrative Code (WAC)

  • 250-18—Residency status for higher education

WSAC’s role

WSAC’s role

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC):

  • Adopts residency rules for tuition and fee purposes.
  • Sets guidelines for all public colleges and universities to follow. 
  • Advises residency officers and financial aid officers on residency decisions.

Residency disputes

Residency disputes

Students who do not agree with their school’s residency decision should submit an appeal to their school. If the issue is not solved after appealing, students can send a complaint form to WSAC. WSAC cannot overturn a school’s decision, but it can review the decision and advise the school. It can also review if the school followed its published policies and procedures.