A student must be one of the following to be eligible to receive federal student aid (FSA).
- A U.S. citizen or national;
- A citizen of the Freely Associated States: the Federated States of
Micronesia and the Republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands.
(These students can only receive aid from some of the FSA programs
and do not have an A-number/ARN,); or
- A U.S. permanent resident or other eligible noncitizen.
U.S. Citizenship Documentation
If a student must prove their status as a U.S. citizen or national, only certain types of documents are acceptable. The Department doesn’t specify all of
the acceptable documents, but here are some documents you might choose
to use to prove U.S. citizenship:
- A Certificate of Naturalization (N-550 or N-570) issued by USCIS
(or, prior to 1991, a federal or state court), or through administrative
naturalization after December 1990 to those who are individually
- A Certificate of Citizenship (N-560 or N-561) is issued by USCIS to
individuals who derive U.S. citizenship through a parent.
- A copy of the student’s birth certificate showing that the student
was born in the U.S., which includes Puerto Rico (on or after January 13, 1941), Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands (on or after January 17,
1917), American Samoa, Swains Island, or the Northern Mariana
Islands, unless the person was born to foreign diplomats residing in
the U.S. If a student has a birth certificate from a U.S. jurisdiction
showing that the student was born abroad (i.e., not in the U.S. or its
territories), that birth certificate is not acceptable documentation.
- A U.S. passport, current or expired, (except “limited” passports,
which are typically issued for short periods such as a year and which
don’t receive as much scrutiny as a regular passport when applying).
In the case of nationals who are not U.S. citizens, the passport will be
stamped “Noncitizen National.” Five-year-duration U.S. passports
(commonly issued to younger students) are considered acceptable
documentation, and are not considered “limited”. Passport cards are
also acceptable; however, one-year-duration U.S. passports are NOT
- A wallet-sized passport card, issued by the State Department, is a fully valid attestation of the U.S. citizenship and identity of the bearer, but can only be used for land and sea travel between the U.S. and
Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
- A copy of Form FS-240 (Consular Report of Birth Abroad), FS545 (Certificate of birth issued by a foreign service post), or DS1350 (Certification of Report of Birth). These are State Department documents.
Citizens Of The Freely Associated States
Students who are citizens of the Freely Associated States—the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands—are eligible for Pell Grants (citizens of Palau are also eligible for Federal Work Study and Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant). These students are NOT eligible for FSA loans. These students should have a passport from the Freely Associated States or an I-94.
The student should indicate on the FAFSA that he/she is an eligible noncitizen and leave the ARN item blank. If the student doesn’t have an SSN, he enters 666 and ED will give him a number to use, or if he was given a number in the previous year, he must continue to use the same ED-assigned pseudo-SSN due to Pell Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) rules.
U.S. Permanent Residents aka Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).
Acceptable forms of documentation are:
- A Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 since 1997), or
- A Resident Alien Card (Form I-551 before 1997), or
- An Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-151, issued prior to June 1978), or
- An Arrival/Departure Record (CBP Form I-94) or the Departure Record (Form I-94A which is used at land border points of entry with the endorsement “Processed for I-551. Temporary Evidence of Lawful Admission for Permanent Residence. Valid until (Date Cannot Have Passed). Employment Authorized.”, or
- A machine readable immigrant visa (MRIV) in the holder’s passport. The MRIV will have an admission stamp, and the statement “UPON ENDORSEMENT SERVES AS TEMPORARY I-551 EVIDENCING PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR 1 YEAR” which appears directly above the machine readable section. An MRIV with this statement, contained in an unexpired foreign passport and endorsed with the admission stamp, constitutes a temporary I-551, valid for one year from the date of endorsement on the stamp.
- A United States Travel Document (mint green cover), which replaces the Reentry Permit (Form I-327) and the Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571). It is used by lawful permanent residents (as well as refugees and asylees) and is annotated with “Permit to Reenter Form I-327 (Rev. 9-2-03).”
- Person’s with nonimmigrant visas, including work visas, student, visitors and foreign government officials are not eligible for FSA with a Form I-94 with the proper endorsements.
- Family unity status individuals.
- Temporary residents.
- Illegal aliens under the legalization (amnesty) program
- Students with “Temporary Protected Status” stamped on their I-94.