Pop Quiz - Citizenship and VAWA: Is the Student Eligible for Aid?


If a student is only authorized for employment, but has filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provision, is this person now eligible for Title IV aid?


The student may be eligible for Title IV aid. Additional documentation will be needed to verify the student's eligibility. Please see pages 1-29 to 1-30 of the 2015-16 FSA Handbook as well as the following from GEN-10-07:

"Normally, when a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) marries an alien and wishes to bring his or her spouse to the U.S., the U.S. citizen petitions the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) USCIS office so the alien spouse may legally reside in the U.S. However, sometimes in the case of domestic violence, the abusing citizen-spouse threatens the alien-spouse and/or controls the petitioning process. Immigrants who are spouses of U.S. citizens or spouses of lawful permanent residents, and who are victims of domestic violence, as determined by the USCIS, may be deemed 'qualified aliens,' which under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) makes them and their designated children eligible for 'federal public benefits,' including federal student financial assistance under Title IV of the HEA. The VAWA allows the battered immigrant to self-petition the USCIS for such a determination without the cooperation or knowledge of the abuser."

There is certain documentation the student should provide, such as an I-797 from the USCIS. This "will indicate 'Notice Type: Approval Notice; and the Section reference will read 'Self-Petitioning Spouse of U.S.C. or L.P.R.' In the narrative below, there will be a statement such as, 'The above petition has been approved.' When the I-797 has the above designations, an otherwise eligible applicant can be awarded and disbursed Title IV, HEA program assistance and no verification with DHS-USCIS is required."

If it is a prima facie case, the student's eligibility for aid has an expiration date. The process for determining eligibility begins with the student filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as an eligible noncitizen and secondary confirmation may be required via Form G-845S. Please see GEN-10-07 for complete details on documentation and guidance for financial aid administrators.


Publication Date: 8/21/2015

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