Learn about the eligibility criteria for the federal student aid programs.

Different types of aid (private scholarships, state grants, etc.) have different rules, called eligibility criteria, to determine who gets the aid. Here are the eligibility criteria for the federal student aid programs.

Basic Eligibility Criteria

Our general eligibility requirements include that you have financial need, are a U.S. citizen oreligible noncitizen, be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at your college or career school, and more. Make sure you’re familiar with our basic eligibility criteria, and ask a collegefinancial aid office if you have any questions about whether you qualify.
Most students are eligible to receive financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college or career school. Your age, race, or field of study won’t affect your eligibility for federal student aid. While your income is taken into consideration, it does not automatically prevent you from getting federal student aid.
To receive federal student aid, you’ll need to
Qualify to obtain a college or career school education, either by having a high school diploma orGeneral Educational Development (GED) certificate, or by completing a high school education in ahomeschool setting approved under state law
AND
Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
AND
Be registered with Selective Service, if you are a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25)
AND
Have a valid Social Security number unless you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau
AND
Sign certifying statements on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) stating that
- you are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe a refund on a federal grant and
- you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes
AND
Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school 
In addition you must…
Be a U.S. CITIZEN or U.S. NATIONAL
You are a U.S. citizen if you were born in the United States or certain U.S. territories, if you were born abroad to parents who are U.S. citizens, or if you have obtained citizenship status through naturalization. If you were born in American Samoa or Swains Island, then you are a U.S. national.
OR
Have a GREEN CARD
You are eligible if you have a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C, also known as a green card, showing you are a U.S. permanent resident
OR
Have an ARRIVAL-DEPARTURE RECORD
Your Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must show one of the following:
-Refugee
-Asylum Granted
-Cuban-Haitian Entrant (Status Pending)
-Conditional Entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
-Parolee
OR
Have BATTERED IMMIGRANT STATUS
You are designated as a “battered immigrant-qualified alien” if you are a
victim of abuse by your citizen or permanent resident spouse, or you are the child of a person designated as such under the Violence Against Women Act.
OR
Have a T-VISA
You are eligible if you have a T-visa or a parent with a T-1 visa.
Start filling out the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov.
The U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion every year in grants, loans, and work-study funds to students attending college or career school. Visit StudentAid.gov today to learn how to pay for your higher education.
There is no age limit when it comes to receiving federal student aid.
Students With a Parent Who Was Killed in Iraq or Afghanistan
If your parent died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, you might be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant funding or for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.

Non-U.S. Citizens

Generally, if you have a “green card” (in other words, if you are a permanent resident alien), you will be considered an “eligible noncitizen” and will be able to get federal student aid if you meet the other basic eligibility criteria. Full details of which immigration statuses make you an eligible noncitizen are at our Non-U.S. Citizen page.
Students With Criminal Convictions
If you are incarcerated, have a conviction for a drug offense, or are subject to an involuntary civil commitment after completing a period of incarceration for a sexual offense, your eligibility for federal student aid may be limited.

Students With Intellectual Disabilities

Students with intellectual disabilities may receive funding from the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Federal Work-Study programs in certain circumstances.
Staying Eligible
Once you’re in college or career school, make sure you stay eligible for federal student aid by paying attention to a few things, including keeping on track toward graduation. And remember to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) every year.

Regaining Eligibility

You might lose federal student aid eligibility in a number of ways. Some of the most common are that you
  • are in default on a federal student loan,
  • don’t maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school, or
  • are convicted of a drug offense.
Learn about the eligibility criteria for the federal student aid programs. Learn about the eligibility criteria for the federal student aid programs. Reviewed by Kelly Miller on August 12, 2016 Rating: 5

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