Student on staircase using laptopEvery student who receives federal financial aid must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. But what if a student’s parents don’t fall into one of these categories? Or what if they DO but simply reside abroad, working and paying taxes in another country? In any of these circumstances, a student is able to file the FAFSA and other financial aid applications and receive financial aid from the federal government, state government, and colleges and universities. But there are certain things to know when completing the applications.

Let’s look at each case.

When Parents Live Abroad

If both the student and parent(s) are U.S. citizens, yet the parents live and work abroad, both the student and parent can get an FSA ID and sign the FAFSA electronically. However, the income and asset reporting can get complicated.

Income questions on the financial aid applications direct families to specific line items on the U.S. tax return. If a family filed a foreign tax return, they should do their best to report the equivalent income figures from their foreign returns. As well, families will be directed to convert the foreign currency on their foreign tax return into U.S. dollars before reporting income information. The financial aid applications will provide guidance to help with this.

When reporting assets on the financial aid applications, families living abroad with assets in another currency will also need to convert those amounts to U.S. dollars before reporting them.

When Parents Are Not U.S. Citizens

If parents are not U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, they still need to fill out the financial aid applications. If they live abroad, they can report their income and asset information in the same way as described above.

Since they don’t have a Social Security number, they should type in all zeros when asked to supply their SSN. However, without a Social Security number, they will not be able to get an FSA ID. This makes electronically signing the FAFSA impossible. As an alternative, the parents will need to print a signature page, manually sign the page, and mail it to the address indicated. Once this signature page is received, the FAFSA will be considered complete. Parents should have no trouble submitting other financial aid applications such as the CSS Profile.

Do you still have questions about applying for financial aid with international parents? We’re happy to help. Reach out to our college planning team at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or collegeplanning@mefa.org.