Many students who dream of continuing their education after high school must rely on federal and state financial aid to make that dream come true. Students who are citizens of the United States, but whose parents are not, often fear that their parents' status will prevent them from receiving financial aid. Federal guidelines do not prevent a student under those circumstances from receiving financial aid.
Although the parents' illegal status does not preclude a student from receiving financial aid, it may create an issue when she files the FAFSA. The FAFSA requires a Social Security number and tax return information for the student's parents. For parents who are not legally present in the United States, or are not present at all, that information will not be available. The student should complete the FAFSA and leave the unavailable information blank. The FAFSA, however, will not be considered complete and therefore will not be processed. The student will then need to contact the financial aid office where she plans to attend school and explain her circumstances. The financial aid office has the authority to allow the FAFSA to be processed without the requested information.
Illegal Parents and Financial Aid
If a student is an independent student, then her parents' information is not needed or considered on the FAFSA. For federal financial aid purposes, a student is considered independent if one of the following applies: she is at least 24 years old, is married, has legal dependents, is a professional or graduate student, is a veteran or member of the armed forces or is an orphan or ward of the court. For a dependent student, her parents' information is required. However, the fact that her parents are illegal does not preclude her from receiving financial aid as long as she is a citizen of the United States through birth or naturalization.
The United States government offers financial aid options to students attending an accredited post-secondary institution. The federal Pell Grant and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant are available to students with the highest financial need. Both grants provide financial aid that does not have to be repaid. The federal work study program allows a student to work at the university or college while in school to earn money to help pay her tuition and expenses. Low-interest federal student loans are also available; however, student loans do have to be repaid when the student finishes her education.
All federal, and most state, student financial aid is calculated based on the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA can be completed online or by requesting a paper form. The priority deadline for completion of the FAFSA is March 1 of the year in which the student plans to attend school. Based on the answers provided on the FAFSA, the student's expected family contribution, or EFC, is calculated and used to decide the student's financial need.