Among the big changes on the new FAFSA is the requirement that every student and parent completing FAFSA online will need to get a secure login called an FSA ID.
Setting up an FSA ID is simple, safe, and secure. But it requires that users provide information allowing the government to verify their identity.
Most of the time, this can be done with a Social Security number through the Social Security Administration. New this year is that parents without Social Security numbers are also able to get FSA IDs. Their verification process is different.
Students must have a Social Security number to create their FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA. But parents do not need a Social Security number. This means that a parent with undocumented immigration status — or any parent without a Social Security number — will be able to safely obtain an FSA ID and contribute information to their student’s FAFSA.
This is an important aspect of the new FAFSA and one that families and counselors should learn about. Unfortunately, for the moment, this is an aspect of the new FAFSA that isn’t working well.
Prior to this week, families and counselors had been reporting that it was all but impossible to get an FSA ID for parents without Security Security numbers. Federal Student Aid acknowledged that this is a problem that needs to be fixed and has been working to patch up the new FAFSA as quickly as possible.
Here is our February 2024 update: This week, we have begun to hear stories that the online identity verification process is up and running (!!!) for at least some parents. This system makes it possible for parents to get an FSA ID immediately without having to call the FAFSA help desk. This is a big deal because Federal Student Aid’s phone lines are a disaster right now.
See the instructions below for how the online identity verification process works.
At this point, we don’t know if the system is fully operational — but parents without Social Security numbers should go to FSA’s Create an Account page and try to get their FSA IDs. These will be required to fill out your student’s FAFSA. Colleges are hoping that families can get the FAFSA done in February as soon as possible.
And just remember, this is a “soft launch” for the FAFSA. FSA has promised that the site will be fully functional by the end of the month. (Here’s hoping, though this might not be a realistic goal.)
In the meantime, read through our information below to learn how this new system will work and what you can expect from the FAFSA once the site is fully functional.
Can I Get an FSA ID?
If you are a student or parent with a Social Security number, you can get an FSA ID. Download our new FAFSA Guide to get the latest information on how to set up an FSA ID. You’ll find all the information you need on Page 18.
If you are a student without a Social Security number because of an undocumented immigration status, including if you have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, you won’t be able to create an FSA ID because you are not eligible for federal financial aid. But you may have other options for getting money to help pay for college. A counselor or another adult can help you find money to pay for college. And be sure to check out the state grant information and scholarship lists on our website.
Finally, if you are a parent without a Social Security number, you can get an FSA ID, but you will need to do the following steps to set up your FSA ID.
How to Get an FSA ID Without a Social Security Number:
1. Go to Federal Student Aid’s Create an Account page and click the “Get Started” button.
2. If you see a page that says “Please Wait,” you are in a waiting room to get access to the website. (Delays are expected on the website in January.) Our advice is to wait patiently. You should be admitted within 5-10 minutes. There is no need to refresh the page.
3. Once you are on the website, create a unique username and password that you will remember, then write or record this to keep it somewhere safe.
4. When you start, it will ask for a Social Security number. Check the box that says you don’t have one. This is common and completely safe. There are many parents who don’t have social security numbers for various reasons.
5. Do you have an Individual Tax Identification Number or ITIN? You won’t be able to use it to get an FSA ID, but you will be able to use it on the FAFSA to automatically upload your tax information.
6. Next, parents will be asked to provide some personal identification information. This includes a full legal name, date of birth, email address, cell phone number, and mailing address. An email address is required to get an FSA ID. You don’t have to share your cell phone number, but it’s best to have it on file as a backup.
7. Parents: please make sure your mailing address is correct. This is important. Federal Student Aid will use your mailing address instead of a Social Security number to verify your identity through TransUnion, a national credit bureau. (TransUnion uses a mailing address to pull verification information from its database. All information is kept private and confidential.)
8. Parents will also be asked to create security questions in case they forget their password. Choose questions about facts, not opinions. Opinions can change. To be safe, write down your security questions and the answers you gave. Keep this safe along with the username and password for your account.
9. After submitting the identification information, parents will be prompted to answer four multiple-choice questions. Read these questions very carefully. You only get one chance to answer them correctly.
10. If you answer the questions correctly, your identity verification is complete. Check your email. Look for an email from Federal Student Aid that says: “Your Account is Ready!” If you have received that email, you are all set and you can begin to help your student fill out their FAFSA immediately.
11. If this process didn’t work for any reason, see our next steps listed below.
Here are examples of the kind of questions parents may be asked (provided in recent webinar by Federal Student Aid):
Which of the following is the street name of your most recent previous address?
- Florida Ave NW
- Sesame Street
- Langston Pkwy
- None of the above
Which of these phone numbers have you used previously?
- (316) 775-5152
- (970) 680-6986
- (128) 791-0911
- None of the above
Which of the following is a current or previous employer?
- The Walt Disney Company
- None of the above
Which of the following people lives or owns property in Tafuna?
- Aasiya Jayavant
- Leo Knight
- Justine Marshall
- None of the above
NOTE: As of now, the FSA ID site appears to be sending some parents directly to the FSA help desk to verify their identity without attempting the identity match noted above.
Verifying your identity this way requires that you can get through to an FSA representative on the phone. You may need to be patient. There may be long wait times on the FSA phone lines. We suggest you call in the morning on business days.
12. If all four questions are answered correctly, the parent’s identification is verified and an FSA ID will be issued. If any of the answers are incorrect, parents will see the following message:
Your Account Was Created But You Need to Contact Us
Call to Confirm Your Identity: We couldn’t verify the information you provided. Call us at 1-800-433-3243 to confirm your identity.
13. Parents will need to call 1-800-433-3243, the FAFSA help desk. Parents will be routed to Federal Student Aid’s “lost my login” system and given the option to choose a preferred language when speaking with the representative. This is a phone line staffed by real people, but the wait times might be long. Our advice is to try to do this as early in the day as possible. Look up the hours on the Federal Student Aid “Contact Us” page.
14. When the FSA representative comes on the line, parents should explain that they don’t have a Social Security number and need to get their FSA ID account set up.
The FSA representative will send an email asking for the following documents to verify identity:
1. A completed Attestation & Validation of Identity Form.
2. Plus verifiable identification:
This includes one of the following:
- Driver’s License
- State or City Identification Card
- Foreign Passport
- Municipal Identification Cards + Utility Bill
- Community ID + Utility Bill
- Consular Identification Cards/Matricula Consular + Utility Bill
Parents will need to scan these documents and email them back to Federal Student Aid. If you don’t have a scanner, try your local library, which may have one available to use for free. Or, your student’s school may also be able to help scan the forms.
Another Option: Complete the FAFSA on Paper
Neither the student nor the parent needs an FSA ID to submit a paper version of the FAFSA. The student will still need a social security number and the parent(s) contributing information to the FAFSA will need to sign it. If the parent does not have a Social Security number, enter 000-00-0000 instead.
Important Note: Filing the FAFSA on paper is not recommended. Federal Student Aid says paper applications will take a lot longer to process. Also, it’s all or nothing. If the parent files a paper FAFSA, the student must file a paper FAFSA as well. All contributors must submit their information in the same way, either online or on paper.
If you have followed the steps listed above and are still having issues setting up an FSA ID, contact Federal Student Aid. If you’re encountering technical problems, check out our latest tips at the bottom of our FAFSA Guide launch page.
Need More Information?
National Association of Student Aid Administrators (PDF Resource for Parents): How to Get an FSA ID for Individuals Without a Social Security Number
National Association of Student Aid Administrators (Ask Regs Blog): Can a Parent Or Spouse Without a Social Security Number Get an FSA ID?
Federal Student Aid (Note: You will need to create an FSA account to watch this webinar): Account Creation Process for Users Without an SSN Live Webinar (November 2, 2023)
LATEST UPDATE: February 8, 2024
EDITED BY: Laura Zingmond and Kim Nauer
Gil Hatcher is currently working on their master’s degree in media studies at the New School, building upon their sociological work from undergrad at Rutgers University. A proud NJ STARS alumni, Gil hopes to help other students find all of the financial aid their states have to offer.