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Student Residency

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.

Requirements for students with any citizenship or immigration status

This option is open to all Washingtonians, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. It is the only option available to undocumented people who have never had DACA or to people who are pending asylum without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). 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.
    • NEW REQUIREMENT AS OF 6/9/22: The Washington residence must be for purposes other than college. If a student takes any courses at another Washington college during the prior 12 months, they cannot have taken more than six credits in any given term. Students exceeding that limit must prove that they have a Washington residence for non-college reasons.
  • 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. WSAC has encouraged colleges to use the U.S. Department of Education's guidance when making a determination.

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). WSAC has encouraged colleges to use the U.S. Department of Education's guidance when making a determination.

Maintaining a primary Washington residence for 12 consecutive months
Starting June 9, 2022, the 12 months of residency must be for purposes other than college

  • Students who live in Washington for 12 consecutive months before their first term at the college determining residency meet this requirement.
  • Starting June 9, 2022, students must be in Washington mainly for non-college purposes. This means that students who take college credits during those 12 months must meet one of the following:
    • They can only take six or fewer college credits (not including Running Start or College in the High School classes) each term at another Washington college during the 12 months, or
    • If they do take more than six credits in any term during the 12 months, they must prove they lived in Washington for the 12 months primarily for purposes other than college. This includes, but is not limited to:
      • Students who earned a high school diploma in Washington and continued living in Washington before their first term at the college determining residency.
      • Students who moved to Washington due to a job for themselves or a family member.
      • Students who moved to Washington to take care of a family member.
  • 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 meet this requirement 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 depends on where the student lives. 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 requirements for this student residency option. 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 for purposes other than college (unless the student’s other paperwork shows otherwise).
  • Proof that the student has applied for permanent residency (green card) or engaged in activities designed to prepare them for citizenship.

Students who have questions about how signing the affidavit may affect their immigration status should consult an immigration attorney.

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 currently available in:

PowerPoint Slides

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

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

Definition: Financially independent students are students who meet all of the following for the current and previous calendar years (calendar year means January–December):

  • They were not claimed as a dependent exemption on a tax return, regardless of age.
  • They did not receive significant financial assistance from parents, relatives, legal guardians, or others (except for a spouse), regardless of age and marital status.
  • They 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.

Option 1 requirements: Financially independent students must do two things to be a Washington resident: 

1. They must have a domicile in Washington for at least one year immediately before the term they apply for residency. “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

2. They must show that the domicile is primarily for purposes other than college. This means that students who take college credits during the previous year must meet one of the following:

  • They can only take six or fewer college credits (not including Running Start or College in the High School classes) each term at any Washington college during the previous year (including the college determining residency) or
  • If they do take more than six credits in any term during the previous year, they must prove they have a domicile in Washington for purposes other than college. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Students who graduated high school in Washington and continued maintaining a domicile in Washington before attending a Washington college.
    • Students who moved to Washington due to a job for themselves or a family member.
    • Students who moved to Washington to take care of a family member.
       

Option 2: Financially dependent students

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

Option 2 requirements: 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.

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)
  • One of the following visa statuses: A, DV, E, G, H-1B, H4, I, K, L1, L2, N, NATO, O, Q, R, S, T, U, or V
  • 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
  • Canadians who qualify for permanent residence under the Jay Treaty
  • Cuban-Haitian Entrants, Conditional Entrants, and Parolees
  • 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:

All military-affiliated students

All military-affiliated students

Starting June 9, 2022, military members (including national guard and reservists), veterans, and dependents (spouses, former spouses, and children) who are eligible for VA educational assistance or rehabilitation benefits are a Washington resident student. 

  • There is no time limit for when the student must enroll. 
  • The student does not need to live in Washington.
  • The student does not need to be actively using the benefits.
  • The military member or veteran does not need to serve for a certain amount of time or have a certain type of service. 
  • The student maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
  • The benefits are those defined in Title 38 U.S.C. and Title 10 U.S.C. Chapter 1606. They include:
    • Post-9/11 GI Bill®
    • Montgomery GI Bill® – Active Duty
    • Montgomery GI Bill® – Selected Reserve (for National Guard and Reserve members)
    • Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
    • Chapter 35 or Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA)
    • Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Fry Scholarship
    • Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship

Current military members

Current military members

In addition to qualifying for residency by being eligible for VA educational or rehabilitation benefits, these current military members are also Washington resident students:

  • Active duty members stationed in Washington. 
  • Starting June 9, 2022: Active duty members who are stationed out-of-state after being stationed in Washington maintain resident student status as long as they are either:
    • Enrolled in a Washington institution prior to the reassignment and stay continuously enrolled after the reassignment or 
    • Enroll in a Washington institution within three years of the date of reassignment.
  • Active duty members who live in Washington and are stationed in an Oregon county that borders Washington.
  • Washington National Guard members (do not have to be on active duty). 
  • Active duty members or Washington national guard members stationed out-of-state who entered service as a Washington resident and maintained their Washington domicile.

Military veterans

Military veterans

In addition to qualifying for residency by being eligible for VA educational or rehabilitation benefits, these veterans are also Washington resident students:

  • Starting June 9, 2022: Veterans who had at least 10 years of honorable service and at least 90 days of active duty service (separation does not have to be from active duty).
    • This is for students who are not eligible for VA educational or rehabilitation benefits.
    • They must enter school within three years of separation/retirement from the military.
    • They do not need to live in Washington.
    • They maintain resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services.
  • 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.
    • They maintain resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply to veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services.

Military dependents

Military dependents

In addition to qualifying for residency by being eligible for VA educational or rehabilitation benefits, these military dependents are Washington resident students:

  • Spouses, state registered domestic partners, or dependents (as defined in Title 10 U.S.C. Sec. 1072(2)) of active duty members stationed in Washington or of Washington national guard members (national guard members do not have to be on active duty). 
    • The student does not need to live in Washington. 
    • If the active duty member or national guard member is stationed out-of-state, the student maintains resident student status as long as they are either:
      • Enrolled in a Washington institution prior to the reassignment and stay continuously enrolled after the reassignment or 
      • Starting June 9, 2022: Enroll in a Washington institution within three years of the date of reassignment.
  • Spouses, state-registered domestic partners, or dependents (as defined in Title 10 U.S.C. Sec. 1072(2)) of active duty members or Washington national guard members stationed out-of-state who entered service as a Washington resident and maintained their Washington domicile. The student does not need to live in Washington.
  • Spouses, state-registered domestic partners and children under 26 of a veteran who separated or retired from the uniformed services with at least ten years of honorable service and at least 90 days of active duty service (separation/retirement does not have to be from active duty).  
    • This is for students who are not eligible for VA educational or rehabilitation benefits.
    • The student must enter school within three years of the veteran’s separation/retirement.
    • Neither the dependent nor the veteran need to live in Washington. 
    • The student maintains resident student status as long as they stay continuously enrolled.
    • Does not apply if the veteran had a dishonorable discharge from the uniformed services.
  • People who live in Washington and are spouses or 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:
    • Enrolled in a Washington institution prior to the reassignment/move and stay continuously enrolled after the reassignment/move or 
    • Admitted to an institution before the reassignment/move 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

Public colleges and universities in Washington may waive all or part of 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. 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. Students who 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:

Tuition Waivers 

Tuition Waivers

Public colleges and universities may waive the difference between resident and nonresident tuition for the following nonresident students:

  • Community and technical college students who are U.S. citizens or FAFSA-eligible non-citizens. More information on SBCTC’s website
  • Graduate assistants who work 20 or more hours per week
  • Faculty/staff and their families
  • Individuals who are eligible for refugee resettlement benefits and their families
  • Dependents of U.S. Congress members who represent Washington 

Not every school offers these waivers. Students should check with their residency officer for more information.
 

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.

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.