Student Residency

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. 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 school has a residency officer who uses state laws, rules, and guidelines to determine student residency. To apply for residency, students should contact the schools they want to attend.

Key terms for residency 

Domicile 

Domicile. 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:

  • WA driver’s license.
  • WA vehicle registration.
  • WA 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 school 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.

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

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