All US citizens are eligible to apply for federal student aid.

A student’s eligibility is NOT affected by their parents’ immigration status. Students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) even if their parents do not have Social Security numbers (SSNs).

What should we do when the FAFSA asks for our SSNs?

When completing the FAFSA on paper, leave the parent SSN field blank. When completing it online, put nine zeroes into the parent SSN field. Click Next to continue. You may get an error message saying that you have entered an incorrect SSN. If this happens, you may need to click the Next button several times to advance to the next page. Once you reach the end of the application, you will have to click Submit several times if you receive the same error.

Can we sign the FAFSA without a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID?

The FSA ID is a secure code that allows parents and students to sign the FAFSA electronically. You must have an SSN to obtain this ID. If you do not have an SSN, you can still accept the terms, and your student can submit the application online. You can also print your completed FAFSA, sign it manually and mail it in.

Can we use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows you to automatically populate the FAFSA with information from your completed federal tax return. If you do not file a federal tax return, the school may require verification forms such as the Non-Tax Filer Parent Statement or an Income and Expense Report.

What if my child isn’t a citizen?

Your child may still qualify for federal student aid. There are some circumstances under which a non–US citizen can qualify for federal student aid, such as having a Resident Alien Card or refugee status or as a victim of human trafficking. Be sure you and your child also explain your situation to the admissions and financial aid offices at the college your child is applying to.

We are concerned about sharing our private information – what should our child do?

If you are not willing to provide your financial information for the FAFSA, your student has the option to indicate that there are special circumstances and will be allowed to complete the application without those details. This does mean, however, that your child will not receive an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and must then contact the student aid office to provide documentation and determine eligibility.

Never assume anything when it comes to completing the FAFSA. Not only does it determine your child’s eligibility for federal student aid, but it is also used by most states and many colleges to grant additional aid like scholarships. If you are not sure about how to answer specific questions, ask the financial aid office at the college your child is applying to or contact the Federal Student Aid Office directly.


About the Author

Jodi Okun is founder and president of College Financial Aid Advisors. She is also the About.com Money Expert on “Paying for College,” and acknowledged as one of the “Top 30 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth.” She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, US News & Education and The Huffington Post. The opinions expressed in this article are Jodi’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Discover Student Loans.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of the US Department of Education.