Seeking Asylum can be a daunting process, but do not let that hinder you from continuing your higher education in another country. In addition, having to navigate college applications and determining which college or university to attend can be overwhelming, but Shoreline Immigration is here make this process less stressful.
In this post, we will cover a variety of topics about attending college while applying for Asylum. If you have any questions about applying for college and seeking asylum, make sure to contact our office to speak with an attorney.
Asylum Seekers and Attending College
In the United States, asylum seekers can attend any college or university they desire, however, before you begin the process you need to determine your asylum status. This will help you navigate which route to take and what resources you qualify for.
You will have access to all the courses on your campus, but there are some courses and degrees in specific fields that may lead to professions that require licensing for the state, for example, doctors, lawyers, and therapists, for which asylum seekers may not be eligible until they receive permanent status. This is why it is strongly recommended that you speak to a college admissions counselor about immigration status requirements if you plan to apply for a specific program.
College Application Process For Asylum Seekers
All colleges have an online application process on their webpage. Ensure you visit their website and read their requirements. Every college application will ask for general information such as name, email address, phone number, and citizenship status, etc. It's very important to select your current immigration status, you want this to be consistent across all your applications. Once USCIS sends you a letter with a decision, you can always go back and change it with the college.
College Application deadlines vary between each college but most deadlines are between August and February for the September start date.
Each college requires the following documents in the application process:
- Your school or college diplomas (translated and evaluated). If you do not have one please refer to NASFAA's Tips for Students: Tip Sheet for Refugee and Asylee Students
- A personal statement
- Two-Three (2-3) recommendation letters
- Test scores (TOEFL, GRE, or GMAT). Colleges may require one or more of these, while other scores may be optional.
Other specific instructions can be found on the colleges’ webpage. As an asylum seeker, it's important to research and ask questions, this will help you take some pressure off the college application process.
Can Asylees Get Financial Aid?
To qualify for financial aid, students must be U.S citizens or eligible noncitizens to receive any type of federal funding. As an Asylee, you are required to have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing “Refugee” or “Asylee Granted” to be considered for federal financial assistance. If your asylee claim is pending, you can start an application for financial aid, but you may not qualify until your status has been approved.
The United States Government provides financial aid through:
- Work-study jobs
- Student loans
- Aid for military families
- Aid for international study
- Aid for other resources from the federal government
- Aid from state government
- Aid from your college and career school
For more specific information visit the Federal Student Aid |An Office of the US Department of Education or the college and career schools’ financial aid office.
Financial aid money can be used for educational purposes such as board and room, tuition and fees, books, supplies, computers or other electronics, and other personal expenses.
Can you apply for FAFSA as an Asylum Seeker?
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that the federal government uses to determine financial eligibility for prospective college students. This will determine what loans and grants you qualify for. As an asylum seeker, you can apply and submit your application with FAFSA on their website. When you apply for FAFSA you will need your approved immigration status, parents’ income, proof of high school and/or college education, and other documentation they may request.
There are also other means to find financial assistance for to pay for college. You can research different private scholarships and grants for refugees and asylees online including these listed:
Can I Study while my Asylum Application is Pending?
Asylum applications can take months to process depending on each applicant and case scenario. Since you are eligible to remain in the United States legally, you may study at any college while you wait for the decision from USCIS. However, there are limitations you need to keep in mind during this time.
As an asylee without an approved status you:
- Are not authorized to work in the United States
- Cannot qualify for FAFSA (until your “Refugee” status is approved)
- Are not eligible for work-study or specific internships
Some colleges may also not grant you credit for the courses you take and you may have to pay out-of-state tuition which can be expensive. The college may choose to grant you in-state tuition. Remember that every college and university is different, but speaking to an admissions counselor on campus will help you better understand your resources.
Once you receive your approval letter from USCIS, you will not have to worry about these listed above.
Seeking asylum or refugee in another country involves a long and complicated process, but while you wait to hear back, you can definitely take advantage of going to college and studying in your areas of interest. Even if you have not received an approval letter from USCIS, you can still attend college and take some courses, just be aware of the limitations listed above.
Upon your approval, you have access to all the resources and can apply for financial assistance as well as complete your FAFSA application. Also, consider researching online for asylee and refugee private scholarships that are offered in the United States. Visit your college’s website or campus and speak to an admissions counselor to assist you in the next step towards your future.
Can Refugees Attend College in the U.S?
Yes, a refugee with an approved status can attend any college or university of their choice in the United States.
Can an Asylee Apply for Financial Aid?
Yes, as long as you have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) titled as a “Refugee” or “Asylee Granted” you can apply and qualify for federal or financial assistance. You may also qualify for other private scholarships.
Can I Study while I wait for my Refugee Approval?
Yes, you can take courses on any college campus, however, keep in mind that you may have to pay out of pocket since you will not qualify for financial assistance until your application has been approved. Second, there are some courses and degrees that lead to professions that require licensing which you cannot apply for until your application is approved.