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Student Residency

Student residency law will change on July 25, 2021. Please check back often for updates. The new law, Senate Bill 5194, makes it easier for all Washingtonians, including and especially undocumented students, to meet residency requirements for in-state (resident) tuition and state financial aid.

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 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.

How to submit the affidavit:

  • 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.
  • 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 PDF form to their school. 

Student residency in Washington

In Washington, the state uses residency requirements for tuition at public colleges and state financial aid programs. There are several ways to meet residency requirements. Students’ residency options depend on their citizenship or immigration status. To be considered for resident tuition and state aid, students must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or non-citizens with a qualifying immigration status. Undocumented students who meet certain requirements can also qualify. Each financial aid program also has program requirements, and students have to apply for aid.

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.

Each public college has a residency officer who uses state laws, rules, and guidelines to determine student residency. At private colleges that offer state financial aid, the financial aid office determines student residency. To apply for residency, students should contact the schools they want to attend.

Key terms for residency 

Domicile 

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.

Financial dependence, independence

Financial dependence and independence

Washington residency law defines financial independence and dependence differently than the federal government does for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

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.

Residency disputes

Residency disputes

Students who do not agree with the residency decision made by their college or university should go through the school’s appeal process first. If the issue persists, students can send a complaint form to the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC). WSAC cannot override 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.

Residency officer

Residency officer

Each public college has a residency officer. The residency officer uses state laws, rules, and guidelines to decide if students are residents or nonresidents for tuition and fee purposes. Residency officers are usually located in the registrar’s or admissions office. The financial aid office at public colleges uses the residency officer’s determination to award state financial aid. At private colleges that offer state financial aid, the financial aid office determines student residency.

State financial aid

State financial aid

The College Bound Scholarship, Washington College Grant, and other state financial aid programs have requirements that include residency. Each state aid program has different residency requirements. It is possible to get resident tuition but not meet residency requirements for state financial aid programs. Students should contact their financial aid office to find out if they qualify for state financial aid programs. In Washington, there are two different applications for financial aid, but students only need to file one. 

  • U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  • All other students file the WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid)

Not sure whether to file the FAFSA or WASFA? Take this questionnaire to find out. 

Tuition

Tuition

Students must meet residency requirements to qualify for resident (in-state) tuition and fees at public colleges. Resident tuition is typically less expensive than out-of-state rates. A student’s residency is determined at admission by each school. Students who are admitted as nonresidents, but think they meet student residency requirements, can apply for resident tuition. Students with questions about residency eligibility or the residency application process should contact the school’s residency officer. 

Residency requirements 

This section links to select information in WSAC's Residency Guide. View the complete residency guide

U.S. Citizens, Nationals

U.S. Citizens and U.S. Nationals 
  1. Residency requirements for tuition and all state aid 
  2. Other ways to meet residency requirements for tuition and some state aid 
  3. Nonresident tuition waivers 
  4. How to apply for financial aid 
  5. Immigration documentation for residency decisions

 

Non-U.S. Citizens, Nationals

Non-U.S. Citizens and Nationals

This section covers immigration documentation and residency requirements for Non-U.S. Citizens and Nationals

Immigration documentation info for:

Residency requirements for: 

  1. Permanent and conditional permanent residents (green card)
  2. People with a current Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  3. People without a current EAD

Other

Other ways to meet residency for tuition and some state aid

This section covers requirements for: 

  1. Military members, veterans, and their dependents 
  2. Oregon residents who live on the Oregon-Washington border or recently moved to Washington 
  3. Tribal members