Green Card Financial-Aid Questions

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Although permanent resident cards are no longer green in color, students who are legal permanent residents of the United States under what used to be called a "green card" are eligible to apply for federal financial aid. Permanent residents can receive grants, loans and other types of financial aid to help pay for college.

Eligibility

United States permanent residents who have legal documentation are eligible to receive all types of federal student aid. There are no differences between citizenship and permanent residence for the purposes of financial aid. Students who are permanent residents can apply for financial aid even if their parents are undocumented or do not live in the country.

Documentation

Permanent residents must present proof of residency to the school financial aid office, upon request. Most students should have a Permanent Resident Card, or Resident Alien Card, which are both also known I-551 or I-551C cards. The previous version of the card, the I-151 Alien Registration Receipt Card, is also acceptable documentation of eligibility for financial aid. If the student has recently arrived, he might only have an Arrival/Departure record that says, "Processed for I-551. Temporary Evidence of Lawful Admission for Permanent Residence." As long as it is not expired, this is adequate.

Amount of Aid

The amount of aid you receive as a permanent resident will depend on your financial and academic situation. As with U.S. citizens, need-based aid is distributed on the basis of your family's income and ability to pay for college. The federal government may offer you grants and loans to help pay for college. Your college may also offer grants. Being a first-generation college student gives you a better chance of qualifying for special grants for students whose parents did not attend college.

Filling Out the FAFSA

When you fill out the FAFSA to apply for financial aid, pay attention to a few special circumstances that may apply to you. In the area that asks for citizenship status, you must select the correct noncitizen option. If your parents are not documented, you should enter all zeros for their Social Security numbers and select the option that they did not file taxes. However, you do need to report their income in the appropriate sections.

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