The FAFSA is (Finally) Open for Undocumented Parents

After months of waiting, students with undocumented parents are finally able to complete and submit their FAFSA. Federal Student Aid, the government agency in charge of the FAFSA, announced on April 30 that it would temporarily eliminate the identity verification requirement for parents without Social Security numbers. The move came just one day before the nation’s traditional college “Decision Day” on May 1st.

“The Department is temporarily allowing individuals without an SSN to enter and complete the 2024-25 FAFSA,” the statement noted. New users “will not have to wait to have their identity validation completed before they can use their account username and password to access and complete the online 2024-25 FAFSA form.”

This latest fix allows parents without a Social Security number to immediately get an FSA ID and use it to either start or complete their students’ FAFSA form. The department released an updated tip sheet this week with revised instructions for mixed-status families.

“We know this comes very late in the cycle but hope it brings some much-needed relief to those students and parents who have been doing everything in their power to complete a FAFSA,” offered MorraLee Keller, senior director of strategic programming at the National College Attainment Network and one of the nation’s lead FAFSA trainers.

 

Latest Fix Working Well

College access counselors initially greeted the news with worry. Prior attempts to make the verification process easier as well as eliminate bugs in the system didn’t work for all. While some families were helped by earlier fixes, too many families remained shut out of the FAFSA and left in limbo with their hopes for financial aid repeatedly dashed.

But the good news is that this latest fix appears to be working well. Counselors report that Federal Student Aid has indeed taken down the barriers requiring undocumented parents to prove their identity.

What does this mean for students and families? Everyone can now get an FSA ID and complete the FAFSA, including mixed-status families. There is no immediate need to provide proof of identity. However, families will need to complete Federal Student Aid’s verification process, providing legal proof of who they are, before the next FAFSA opens this fall.

Still waiting to finish your FAFSA? Get Federal Student Aid’s latest instructions and fill out your FAFSA today!

How To Submit the 2024–25 FAFSA® Form if Your Contributor Doesn’t Have an SSN (March 6 Update)

 

Mixed-Status Families: What Went Wrong

The problems all stem from a legal requirement that anyone logging into the FAFSA must have their identity verified. Most students and their families do this by submitting their Social Security numbers when applying for their FSA ID. The Social Security Administration matches the information provided by the student and their families and getting an FSA ID is relatively simple and quick.

However, there are more than a half-million students who are entitled to apply for federal college aid, but have parents who are either undocumented or lack Social Security numbers for other reasons. In the past, parents could enter a series of zeros in lieu of a Social Security number and the FAFSA would be processed like any other. The FAFSA Simplification Act now requires a much greater level of scrutiny with identity verification a mandatory part of the process.

Federal Student Aid’s latest FAFSA fix tackles major problems for undocumented parents and other contributors without Social Security numbers:

  • Many parents found it impossible to navigate Federal Student Aid’s byzantine identity verification process to get an FSA ID, a secure login that is required to start the FAFSA. If the online identity verification system didn’t work, parents without Social Security numbers were forced to call the agency and wait for hours on hold to get a case number so they could provide identification to be approved for an FSA ID. Often parents would wait an hour or longer, only to have the call dropped.

 

  • Once parents had a case number, they were told to email a packet of information to Federal Student Aid with documents that would prove their identity. Many parents dutifully did this yet never heard back from Federal Student Aid.

 

  • Many undocumented parents who were lucky enough to get an FSA ID would still run into problems with the FAFSA. Most commonly, it was impossible for students to “invite” parents to contribute their information to their FAFSA. Students would send their parents an invite through the FAFSA, but it never arrived in the parents’ inboxes. Without the secure invite link, there was no way for parents to help their students finish the FAFSA.

 

Get Your FAFSA Done: Use FSA’s Tip Sheet

The process can still be a bit tricky for mixed-status families. Many families, in desperation, created multiple FSA IDs for the parents. If your parents have multiple FSA IDs at this point, you may need to start from scratch and create a new FSA ID for the parent and a new FAFSA for the student.

Important First Step: Read Federal Student Aid’s May 6th tip sheet for mixed-status families. Try these instructions first and see if they work for you. These instructions are working for most families.

These instructions will work if:

  • You and your family are just beginning the FAFSA application process; or
  • You and your parents have FSA IDs that are verified or in the process of being verified and you know the login information for those FSA IDs.

 

If this is you, be sure to read the tip sheet carefully. Start working on your FAFSA with your parent or parents. If all goes well, the process should go smoothly.

 

Help if Your Parents Created Multiple FSA IDs

Federal Student Aid’s instructions may not work for you if your parents have applied for an FSA ID more than once.

You will need to find out if your parents have an FSA ID that is ready to use:

  • Ask your parent or parents to check the email (or emails) they used to set up their FSA IDs. Have any been verified? Or are any in the process of being verified? (They should have received an email or look for a green check mark on the “Personal Information” page of their dashboard.)
  • If the answer is yes, they will be able to use this FSA ID to fill out your FAFSA. If no, skip to the next section.
  • Go into your FAFSA and invite your parents to your form being sure to use the exact information that they used to create their FSA ID.
  • Once you have sent the invite, your parents should login to the dashboard at StudentAid.gov. Hopefully, the invite will be there. They will use it to complete their part of your FAFSA.

 

You May Need to Start from Scratch

If your parents have more than one FSA ID and none of them have been verified or are in the process of being verified, it’s best to start over at this point. Don’t worry. Things should go fast and easy this time.

The key to success is for the parent to get a new FSA ID and then invite you to the form. This is the easiest way to make sure your parents’ part of the FAFSA and your part of the FAFSA are linked up.

 

Follow These Steps:

1. If you have started your FAFSA, use these instructions to delete it.

2. If your parents are certain that they don’t have an FSA ID that is in the process of being verified, they should create a new FSA ID using a new email address. There will be no immediate need to go through the verification process.

3. Make sure your parents enter their information carefully and take screenshots of the information they enter. You will need this exact login information in the future.

4. With the new FSA ID, one of your parents should be able log into the FAFSA immediately and fill out the form. Parents will need to enter their tax information manually using their 2022 tax forms or income statements. (If information is required from a second parent, the FAFSA will ask the first parent to invite your second parent to do their part.) Your parent, or parents, should complete their part of the FAFSA form.

5. When prompted by the FAFSA, one of your parents should “invite” you to contribute to the form. Make sure that the invite information is identical to the information that you used to create your FSA ID.

6. You’re up next! Log in to your dashboard at StudentAid.gov and look for your parent’s invite. Start your FAFSA form using the invite link. You will need to enter your 2022 tax or income manually, if you have tax information.

8. If all goes well, everything will go quickly. Watch for your “Congratulations!” at the end. The colleges you applied to should see your information within one to three business days.

 

Submitted the FAFSA Without Your Parents?

Did you file your FAFSA without the help of your parents in February or March? Federal Student Aid had provided a workaround at that point allowing students to complete and submit their FAFSA so that they could meet important state and college deadlines.

If this is you, now is the time for you and your parents to get back into your FAFSA and have your parents add their information. Your FAFSA won’t be complete until your parents do this final step. Here is what you need to do:

1. Read Federal Student Aid’s latest tip sheet for mixed-status families.

2. Your parents will need to create a new FSA ID or locate an FSA ID that is in the process of being verified. Make sure to take a screenshot of their FSA ID information or write it down carefully.

3. Then log on to your FAFSA. Your FAFSA has already been submitted to your colleges, so you will be making a correction. Read these instructions for making corrections and updating your FAFSA, if you need to.

4. Look for the red exclamation mark on the top of your Federal Student Aid dashboard. This section will give you an overview of what you need to do.

5. You will need to invite one or both of your parents to complete your form. Be sure to use an FSA ID that is either verified or in the process of being verified. If your parents don’t have an FSA ID yet, they will need to create a new one. Invite your parents to join your FAFSA using the exact information they used to create their FSA ID.

6. Hopefully, the invite process will work and your parents will get a link to your form. They should check the email they used to create their FSA ID. Or they can login to their account to see if the link is there.

7. If the link is there, they just need to follow the instructions to complete their section of your FAFSA! Be sure the their part of the FAFSA is complete and yours is complete. After three days, contact your colleges to make sure they received the updated form.

8. If there are any problems, call your colleges and let them know you are still having problems with the FAFSA. They may be able to help you. Or contact Federal Student Aid.

 

Important: Parents Must Still Verify Their Identity

While the FAFSA may be done, parents must continue to work on getting their FSA ID verification. This last step must be completed before the next FAFSA opens on October 1.

It is important that parents without Social Security numbers work with Federal Student Aid to complete the verification process.

1. Contact Federal Student Aid to find out the status of the verification process. Make sure something is happening. If Federal Student Aid is still working on your application, there is no need to do anything further.

2. If your parents created a new FSA ID, they should follow these instructions on Federal Student Aid’s website.

 

EXTRA CREDIT

What if I Used a Paper Version of the FAFSA?

Some students in mixed-status families opted to complete and mail in a paper version of the FAFSA. Federal Student Aid advised against this, warning that paper FAFSA forms would be processed last. But some students needed to use this option, either to get a time stamp for an important deadline or because they were incarcerated and did not have access to the online form.

Federal Student Aid offered an update on May 10th. What happens next? For most students, the big question is: Do you need the time stamp on the paper version of the FAFSA you mailed in?

  • Don’t need FAFSA’s time stamp? You should file the FAFSA online as soon as you can. It is working well for mixed-status families and parents without Social Security numbers. Use Federal Student Aid’s latest tip sheet along with our instructions above. Colleges will receive your FAFSA in less than three business days and will use this version to process your financial aid request. The paper version will be thrown out.

 

  • Do need FAFSA’s time stamp? First, double-check with the college, scholarship provider or state grant organization that set that original deadline. It’s likely that this deadline might have been moved. Let them know about your predicament. Can you file the online version now and keep your place in line? If you can, use Federal Student Aid’s latest tip sheet along with our instructions above. Colleges will have your FAFSA in less than three business days. If it is crucial to keep the time stamp on your paper FAFSA, let them know that your FAFSA won’t be processed until late June. Do they really want to wait that long? Or is there some way you can file the FAFSA online and honor their deadline?

 

  • Confined or incarcerated? All paper versions of the FAFSA will be processed in late-June. All students should try to get an FSA ID if they are allowed to so you can monitor the status of your form.

 

Students deciding to use the paper version will be notified after their FAFSA has been processed in late June. Students will receive an email if they signed up for an FSA ID or provided an email address on the form. Otherwise, students will receive a letter in the mail within two weeks.

 

Need more information? Check out Federal Student Aid’s latest instructions and resources below.

Federal Student Aid Quick Links

How To Submit The 2024–25 FAFSA® Form if Your Contributor Doesn’t Have an SSN (March 6) (web)

How To Submit The 2024–25 FAFSA® Form if Your Contributor Doesn’t Have an SSN (March 6) (PDF)

FSA: Update on Access to the 2024-25 FAFSA Form for Individuals Without a Social Security Number

How do I verify my identity if I create an account and don’t have a Social Security number?

FSA Information for Non-US Citizens

Pro Tips for the 2024–25 FAFSA® Form

How To Correct or Update Your FAFSA® Form

Create an Account

Federal Student Aid Login

Contact Federal Student Aid

 

 

 

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