Students With Undocumented, Noncitizen Parents Finally Able to Complete FAFSA

Students with a parent who doesn’t have a social security number have been unable to submit an online FAFSA for much of the current cycle.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on March 15, 2024
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  • Students with undocumented or noncitizen parents can now submit their FAFSA online after a nearly three-month delay.
  • While the issue has been resolved, specific guidance exists for families impacted by the glitch.
  • Students and their families must manually input financial information, something other families do not have to do.
  • The Simplified FAFSA, being used for the first time this year, has encountered many technical issues.

Prospective college students with undocumented or noncitizen parents can finally submit their online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Technical glitches have plagued the launch of the 2024-25 FAFSA, but no students have been impacted as much as those with at least one parent who doesn't have a social security number. These students could not complete or submit their FAFSA online for the first two months after it launched on Dec. 30.

The Department of Education (ED) introduced a workaround in late February, but that included additional hoops for students and families to jump through.

Federal Student Aid (FSA) revealed in a March 12 announcement that it resolved technical issues that stopped students and families from filling out the form. Previously, these users would encounter an error message if a parent without a social security number tried to start a FAFSA application for their student. An error message also appeared if the student later tried to invite a parent without a social security number to contribute to an existing application.

These students weren't able to complete the FAFSA in either situation.

FSA said it has resolved both issues. However, the department's announcement implies that some glitches may persist.

FSA recommends that students start the application process and later add their parents as contributors. If the parent attempts to begin the application instead, they may still have issues.

The department still recommends that the student start the application and then invite the parent to contribute to their form for the best user experience and to avoid any further glitches, FSA said in its announcement.

Once students and families overcome this issue, they still have additional steps that other families don't have.

FSA stated that parents without a social security number must input their financial information manually, even if they have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Other parents can instead link their FSA account to their IRS account so that the department automatically receives their most recent financial data.

This, however, is not available to undocumented or noncitizen parents.

ED said it is working to resolve this issue. Once it does, the department said it will retrieve federal tax information through the IRS and update the student's FAFSA to reflect any changes.

There is currently no estimated timeline for resolution of this issue, FSA's announcement stated.

BestColleges previously reported that students and families impacted by the technical issue could instead submit their FAFSA through the mail to overcome these obstacles and meet important financial aid deadlines. Families who did opt for this method can still submit the FAFSA online now that the issues are resolved, and ED will use information from the online application instead.

This issue may be resolved, but FSA still lists over a dozen outstanding 2024-25 FAFSA issues. Most have workarounds, but a handful of open issues do not.

The 2024-25 FAFSA is the first iteration of the new Simplified FAFSA form.