Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
FAFSA for International Students
Filling out the FAFSA can be an intimidating process, especially for international students. International students may wonder if they can even apply for the FAFSA. To give you a short answer, international students cannot apply for federal funds through the FAFSA. However, some institutions will determine their institutional aid through FAFSA data. Let’s get into what that means for you.
What types of aid does the FAFSA determine?
In general, the FAFSA can help determine students’ eligibility for any type of financial aid. That includes federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid. However, international students are not eligible for federal or state aid. This means they cannot qualify for federal loans, Pell Grants, or any other form of aid that the government offers. So, international students who fill out the FAFSA will only do so to determine their eligibility for institutional or private aid.
Also see: What does my FAFSA EFC number mean?
Can international students apply for federal aid with the FAFSA?
International students cannot receive any form of federal aid. That includes grants and loans. This can be a big obstacle towards making an education in the U.S. financially feasible. However, there are still ways to make it work. Read on to find out about some financial resources that you can qualify for.
What types of financial aid are international students eligible for?
International students can qualify for institutional aid. Most institutions have a page on their website that details their international student financial aid policy. Stanford University uses a policy that they have a set fund for international student financial aid. Students must indicate their need for international financial aid on their application in order to qualify. Kenyon College requires any international students seeking financial aid to complete the CSS Profile and the International Student Financial Aid Application.
Make sure to check the policy of each school you apply for before submitting your application. Some do not offer any financial aid to international students, so it’s best to find out before you spend time and money on your application.
International students are also eligible for private scholarships. Our list of the best scholarships for international students is a great place to start. These scholarships help fill the void of federal financial aid and could help send you to college in the US. Many private scholarships use the FAFSA as an indication of financial need.
Financial aid through your home country
International students should also check in with their home country’s embassy or a consulate in the United States about the possibility of international scholarships. Your home government may have grants available to pay its citizens to study in the United States.
How is filling out the FAFSA different for international students?
International students filling out the FAFSA will have a few key differences in their experience filling out the FAFSA. The first will be in their citizenship status. International students may qualify as an eligible non-citizen if they meet any of the following criteria:
- A permanent resident with a “Green Card”
- An I-551C conditional permanent resident
- A person with an Arrival-Departure Record I-94 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with any of these designations: Refugee, Asylum Granted, Indefinite Parole, Humanitarian Parole, or Cuban-Haitian Entrant
- A holder of a T-visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking, or you are the child of someone who holds this type of visa
- A battered immigrant-qualified alien, meaning you are a victim of abuse or the child of a victim as defined by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Submitting your tax returns
To use foreign tax returns, you will have to convert your country’s currency to USD using the latest published exchange rates on the Federal Reserve. You’ll also want to enter all zeros for your parents’ Social Security numbers and enter “Foreign country” as their state of legal residence.
If you are an international student looking for financial aid in the United States, you’ll probably end up filling out the FAFSA. However, you will not qualify through federal or state aid through the form. It will be useful to determine eligibility for institutional aid and private scholarships. You’ll have a slightly different experience filling out the actual FAFSA form, but overall it will be comparable to any student’s experience. You should also make sure to look into international financial aid that your own country offers. This can help you to make school in the US more affordable.
Frequently asked questions about international students applying for the FAFSA
When is the FAFSA due for international students?
The answer to this question will vary based on your school. Because you will not qualify for state or federal aid through the FAFSA, you will not be concerned with those deadlines. However, some schools have earlier FAFSA deadlines for institutional aid. Some might even have especially early deadlines for international scholarship consideration. Make sure to research your deadlines on a case-by-case basis.
Can an international student apply for the FAFSA?
An international student can apply for the FAFSA, but it won’t qualify them for federal or state financial aid. However, if you are looking to receive institutional aid or private scholarships, there’s a good chance you’ll have to complete the FAFSA.