Filling Out the FAFSA: I am a U.S. Citizen, But My Parents are Undocumented Immigrants

U.S. citizen students with undocumented parents can now submit the 2024-25 FAFSA. Here's how.
Eliza Haverstock
By Eliza Haverstock 
Updated
Edited by Karen Gaudette Brewer

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When can I update my FAFSA application? The redesigned FAFSA for the 2024-25 academic year is available at FAFSA.gov. After major delays, the FAFSA corrections process opened on April 16 to students and families who submitted incorrect or incomplete forms.

You can still submit the 2023-24 FAFSA until June 30, 2024.

Dive deeper into FAFSA

All U.S. citizens are eligible for federal financial aid, regardless of their parents' immigration status. If you are a citizen, but your parents are undocumented immigrants or don't have a Social Security number (SSN), you should still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You and your parents are each considered FAFSA “contributors” who will fill out separate portions of the form.

As of mid-March, students with undocumented parents can submit the new 2024-25 FAFSA online. However, note that parent contributors from Freely Associated States are not able to start a FAFSA form on behalf of their dependent students. In this scenario, students should start the form and invite parent contributor(s) to participate.

For months, technical glitches prevented many students from submitting the form — and left them in limbo as colleges were unable to calculate their financial aid offers.

The issue is frustrating, but it's still essential to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to qualify for college financial aid, like federal student loans, need-based Pell Grants, work-study and some scholarships.

If you need further assistance filling out the FAFSA, consider reaching out to the following resources:

  • Your high school's college or guidance counselor.

  • The financial aid office at your current or prospective college.

  • College access organizations in your community.

  • The government's FAFSA helpline: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

For the latest updates, sign up for the Education Department's email newsletter intended for students and families affect by this FASFA issue. More details and instructions are also available on StudentAid.gov.

Here's what else you need to know.

Request your FSA IDs

The student and their contributor(s) must request their own FSA IDs before filling out the FAFSA. An FSA ID is the username and password combination you'll use to sign into your StudentAid.gov account to fill out the FAFSA. It can take up to three days to receive your FSA ID after you request it.

Not sure if a parent is considered a FAFSA contributor? Check out this Education Department infographic.

There's a special process for parents without SSNs to request their FSA ID. Here's a summary of the step these parents must take:

  1. Begin to create an account on StudentAid.gov

  2. You’ll be directed to answer up to four identity verification questions via TransUnion, a credit reporting agency. For example, you may be asked to confirm your phone number or the name of your recent employers.

  3. After completing the account creation process, you’ll see a confirmation page. If you passed the TransUnion process, you’ll receive an FSA ID in a few days, which you’ll use to fill out your parent portion of the FAFSA. 

  4. If you failed the TransUnion process, or you didn't get any ID verification questions, you'll be notified on the account creation confirmation page that you need to take additional steps to verify your identity. You will receive a verification email from the Education Department asking you to upload documents that establish your identity. You’ll also need to sign a form attesting that you are who you say you are.

  5. If your documents are accepted, you’ll get a confirmation email and an FSA ID, which you can use to access and submit your portion of the FAFSA.

If you fail the TransUnion identity verification, you'll be asked to submit one of the following documents (or combinations of documents):

  • U.S. driver’s license.

  • U.S. state or city ID card.

  • Foreign passport.

  • Municipal ID cards + utility bill. 

  • Community ID + utility bill. 

  • Consular ID cards/Matricula Consular + utility bill. 

Steps to fill out the FAFSA for U.S. citizens with undocumented parents

You won’t need to wait for your contributor(s) to receive FSA IDs to get started on the FAFSA form. The U.S. Department of Education is temporarily allowing contributors that do not have a Social Security number to contribute to the 2024-25 FAFSA form while awaiting identity verification.

Once contributors create a StudentAid.gov account, they can access the FAFSA form using their StudentAid.gov username and password. They will continue to have access to the form while the mandatory identity verification process is being completed.

Take a few minutes to gather important financial documents to help the process go smoothly. These documents may include:

  • 2022 tax returns.

  • Child support records.

  • Current balances of cash, savings and checking accounts.

  • Net worth of investments, businesses and farms.

Here's a summary of the steps students must take. For more details, check out the information page on StudentAid.gov.

  1. Start the form on StudentAid.gov. (If you already started the form, but didn't submit it, log into StudentAid.gov. On your dashboard, scroll down to the "My Activity" section and select the 2024–25 form. The form status must be “Draft” or “In Progress” to make changes.)

  2. Follow the prompts to invite all required contributors to your FAFSA. List contributor information exactly as it appears on an official I.D., such as a foreign passport, birth certificate or U.S. driver's license. For contributors without SSNs, leave the SSN section blank. If your contributors already have a StudentAid.gov account, make sure personal information matches exactly the information they provided when they created that account to avoid errors.

  3. Complete your portion of the FAFSA.

  4. Select the schools you'd like to receive the form.

  5. Sign your section of the form. You'll land on the "section complete" page.

  6. Have your parent(s) accept their FAFSA invite and manually input their income and tax information. This is where they'll need financial documents on hand, like 2022 tax returns. It is recommended that contributors enter an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if they have one. The U.S. Department of Education will use this to retrieve federal tax information from the IRS at a future unspecified date and reprocess the form if needed to reflect changes.

  7. Check your email for FAFSA submission confirmation. Save a copy of this message for your records and to share with any schools with upcoming FAFSA deadlines.

Correct your FAFSA if you used an earlier workaround

If you had an early financial aid deadline and could not submit the FAFSA because a parent is undocumented, you may have followed the Department of Education's workaround.

If you used the workaround, you'll need to correct your FAFSA submission once your form is processed. You can check in on your form’s processing status by logging into your StudentAid.gov account.

To make the correction, your contributor(s) who don’t have an SSN must return to the form to provide consent to share their information and to add their signature. Your FAFSA will not be considered “complete” until your contributor(s) do this.

Private loan options

Some private lenders may allow you to borrow a student loan with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen. Before considering private options, first submit the FAFSA so you exhaust all free money available, including federal, state and school grants and federal work-study. Then, move on to federal loans.

Use private loans as a last resort to fill in any gaps in your college costs. Private student loans don’t offer the same protections as federal student loans, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

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