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Residency & Citizenship

Residency for tuition and state financial aid programs 

In Washington, the state uses residency requirements for tuition at public colleges and state financial aid programs. Both U.S. citizens and non-citizens can meet residency requirements. 

Tuition. Students must meet residency requirements to qualify for in-state (resident) tuition and fees at public colleges. In-state tuition is typically less expensive than out-of-state rates. 

State financial aid. The College Bound Scholarship, State Need Grant, and other state financial aid programs have requirements that include residency. 

Key terms for residency

Domicile. A domicile is a legal term used to describe a person’s true, fixed, and permanent home. A person can only have one legal domicile in the U.S. at a time. To establish a domicile in Washington, a person must prove physical presence in the state plus intent to permanently reside in the state. There are different ways to show proof of a domicile. For more info, visit the Washington Student Achievement Council website.

Financial dependence and independence. Washington residency law defines financial independence and dependence differently than the federal government does for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Financially independent students. These students pay their own tuition and living expenses; and no one else claimed them on their taxes in the current or previous year. 

Financially dependent students. These students do not pay their own tuition and living expenses; and someone else claimed them as a dependent on their taxes, regardless of age, in the current or previous year. 

Residency requirements

There are four primary ways to meet residency requirements for tuition and fees and all state financial aid programs. Each financial aid program also has program requirements, and students have to apply for aid.

In order to meet residency requirements, students must be in one of the following student groups.

Student groups. There are two student groups that have different residency requirements. A student’s group depends on their citizenship or immigration status. 

Student Group #1 	US Citizens  	Permanent residents, U.S. nationals 	Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau  	Students with current or expired Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status  	Students with one of the following immigration statuses: 		Refugee 		Asylee 		Temporary Protected Status 		Withholding of Removal 		Conditional permanent resident  		E3, H-1B, H4, L1, L2, T, or U visa 		Students with a current Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  		Other non-citizens may be in this group. Contact the residency officer at your college for more information. Student Group #2 	Undocumented students without expired or current DACA status 	Students with status not listed in Student Group #1

Student Group #1

Students in Student Group #1 with the following financial and living situations may be able to meet residency requirements for in-state tuition and all state financial aid programs.

  1. Financially independent students (see key terms)
  2. Financially dependent students (see key terms)
  3. Recent high school graduates whose parent(s) or legal guardian(s) moved out of Washington
  4. Students who lived in Washington for three years before graduating high school 
1. Financially independent students

Financially independent students must have a domicile in the state for at least one year immediately before their first term.

  • The domicile must be for purposes other than educational--students can't take more than six credits in any one term.
  • People with a B, C, D, F, J, M, or TN/TD visa status cannot establish domicile in Washington.
2. Financially dependent students

Financially dependent students’ parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must have a domicile in the state for at least one year immediately before the student’s first term.

  • Parents or legal guardians who are undocumented can establish domicile in Washington.
  • Parents or legal guardians with a B, C, D, F, J, M, or TN/TD visa status cannot establish a domicile in Washington.
3. Recent high school graduates whose parent(s) or legal guardian(s) moved out of Washington 
  • Must have spent at least 75 percent of their last two years of high school in Washington.
  • Parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must have had a domicile in Washington for at least one year within the five-year period before the student graduated high school.
  • Student must start college within six months of graduating high school.
4. Students who live in Washington for three years prior to graduating high school
  • Graduate from a Washington high school with a diploma, earn a GED, or earn a diploma equivalent.
    • High school graduates must finish their full senior year at a Washington high school.
  • Live in Washington for at least three consecutive years (36 consecutive months) immediately before the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.
  • Continuously live in Washington after the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent until they’re admitted to college.
  • Sign an affidavit saying they meet the above requirements.
    • Non-U.S. Citizens must also promise that they will apply to become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they are eligible. 

Student Group #2

Undocumented students without expired or current DACA status--and students who are not in Group #1--meet residency requirements for in-state tuition and all state financial aid programs if they:

  • Graduate from a Washington high school with a diploma, earn a GED, or earn a diploma equivalent.
    • High school graduates must finish their full senior year at a Washington high school.
  • Live in Washington for at least three consecutive years (36 consecutive months) immediately before the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.
  • Continuously live in Washington after the date they earn a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent until they’re admitted to college.
  • Sign an affidavit saying they meet the above requirements.
    • Non-U.S. Citizens must also promise that they will apply to become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they are eligible.

Other ways to meet residency requirements

There are more than four ways to meet residency requirements. The following people may qualify for in-state tuition and fees but cannot meet the residency requirements for the Washington College Grant and College Bound Scholarship. They may still meet residency requirements for Passport to Careers, State Work Study, Opportunity Grants, the Opportunity Scholarship, and the American Indian Endowed Scholarship:

  • Certain military members, veterans, and their dependents.
  • Certain residents of Oregon who live on the Oregon-Washington border.
  • Certain tribal members.

More information

If you want to know if you qualify for in-state tuition, contact the residency officer at your college. If you want to know if you qualify for state financial aid, please contact your financial aid office. You can also find out more information about Washington residency requirements at the Washington Student Achievement Council website.