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    FAFSA for International Students

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

    Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 18th, 2024
    FAFSA for International Students

    Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) 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.

    Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool (includes opportunities for international students)

    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 Student Aid Index (SAI) 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?

    Institutional aid

    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. Like many schools, Kenyon also requires that students complete the International Student Financial Aid Application which is found on the school’s website after applying. 

    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.

    Private scholarships

    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.

    See also: Guide for international students to studying in the U.S.A.

    How is filling out the FAFSA different for international students?

    Citizenship status

    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.

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Although they will not qualify for federal or state aid, international students looking for financial aid in the United States should fill out the FAFSA
    • Colleges and scholarships use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for other sources of aid
    • Overall, the process of filling out the FAFSA will not be very different for international students
    • Remember to look into financial aid offered by your own country that you may be able to apply to the United States

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    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.

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