Financial Aid

Applying for Financial Aid with International Parents

If parents are U.S. citizens living abroad, they can still create an FSA ID, but will need to convert income and assets into U.S. dollars. If parents are not U.S. citizens, they will not be able to create an FSA ID and will need to print out the signature page and mail it to the address indicated.
A student researching loans

Every 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 FAFSA pull in U.S. tax return data from the IRS. And the CSS Profile® directs families to specific line items on the U.S. tax return. If a family filed a foreign tax return, on the FAFSA they will need to provide consent for the FAFSA to confirm with the IRS that no U.S. tax return was filed. Then, 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 FAFSA will provide guidance to help with this. On the CSS Profile, the family willl be presented with a page on which they can choose the currency used on their tax return. They should answer the questions using the exact figures as listed on their tax return, in that same currency, and the Profile will convert the income figures to U.S. dollars.

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.

Though they don't have a Social Security number, they will still be able to get an FSA ID by providing answers to a series of knowledge-based questions drawn from their credit report. 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

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