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What rights do immigrants have to an education?

Related Legal Issues

Related Legal Issues | 

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What rights do immigrants have to an education?

This toolkit provides information to help you understand your rights to education as an immigrant, and how the law affects you. 

For general information about immigration and education, please read the Articles section and look through the Frequently Asked Questions section. 

IMPORTANT

Question: What will happen to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) under the new presidential administration?

Answer: Right now, the answer is unclear. The current president said that he might end the program, but has not indicated what action, if any, he plans to take against DACA applicants and recipients if he does. But, most immigrant rights groups agree that first-time DACA applicants should wait to file their applications until there is more information about the President’s intentions. People renewing their DACA status can still apply, but should understand that they may lose their filing fees if the program is rescinded. 

All DACA-holders and DACA-eligible individuals should pay close attention to the news (or talk to an immigration lawyer) for the most up-to-date information.

If you would like to see if you qualify for free help, please see our Find Legal Help directory. 

WARNING: The information and forms in this toolkit are not a substitute for a lawyer's help and advice.  It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your situation.

Checklists
Frequently Asked Questions
If my children are here in the United States but are undocumented, are they eligible to attend school and receive a K-12 education?

Undocumented children in the United States have the same rights as any other child to a primary and secondary education. Plyler vs. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). Parents or guardians should follow state education laws about minors' education. In Texas, unless your child falls into a specific exception, the state requires children between the ages of six and 18 to attend school. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.085.

 

 

 

Do I need to have legal status to file a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and receive federal student aid?

Yes. Only people with certain statuses in the United States may receive FEDERAL financial aid for higher education. People eligible to receive federal student financial aid include:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Permanent residents (green card holders)
  • People that have an Arrival-Departure document (I-94) with these statuses:
    • Refugee
    • Asylum granted
    • Cuban-Haitian entrant (status pending)
    • Conditional entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
    • Parolee
    • Those with a battered or crime victim immigrant status (U visa and/or VAWA deferred action status) and their children
    • T visa holder

For more information check: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/non-us-citizens

 

 

    What kind of student financial aid can undocumented students apply for?

    Some states and universities have dedicated funds for undocumented students. Texas does allow eligible undocumented students to receive state aid. To qualify for state aid, students must submit the Texas Application for Financial Aid, and prove they are Texas residents. 

    Higher education institutions also offer financial aid in the form of merit-based academic scholarships. Some schools participate in programs that award need-based grants and scholarships. Contact your academic institution for more information.

     

    Do all undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition rates for college?

    It depends on the state where you go to college. The Texas Dream Act of 2001 provides in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities for undocumented students if they meet certain requirements:

    • Graduated from a Texas high school, or earned a high school equivalency diploma (GED) in Texas.
    • Lived in Texas for three years before enrolling in a Texas higher education institution.
    • Signed an affidavit (sworn statement) saying that they will seek legal residency as soon as possible.

     

    What kind of immigration relief is available for undocumented students?

    Currently, undocumented students may apply to receive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) if they meet the requirements. To be eligible for DACA, applicants must:

    • Have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday;
    • Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007;
    • Have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 (the date DACA was announced);
    • Have had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012;
    • Have been under age 30 as of June 15, 2012;
    • Currently be in school; have graduated high school or completed a GED; or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces;
    • Have not been convicted of a felony, one significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor offenses that do not arise from a single event or misconduct;
    • Not pose a threat to public safety or national security.

    For more information about the requirements to qualify for DACA, see https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

     

    Note: The current President signaled that he might end DACA, but has not said what action—if any—he plans to take against DACA applicants and recipients. However, most immigrant rights groups agree that first-time DACA applicants should wait to file their applications until there is more information about the President’s plans. People renewing their deferred action status can still apply—but they might lose their filing fees if the program ends. All DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals should pay close attention to the news (or talk to an immigration lawyer) for the most up-to-date information.

    .

    What kind of benefits do DACA student recipients get?

    DACA is not a permanent immigration status, and does not offer a path to citizenship. However, students who are granted deferred action status under DACA get certain benefits, including:

    • Temporary protection from deportation, which can be renewed every two years*
    • Permission to work legally in the U.S.
    • The ability to obtain a social security card and state ID or driver’s license

    Note that the current DACA programs can change and even cease to exist at the president's discretion. Be mindful of changes implemented by the new administration in early 2017.

     

     

    What will happen to DACA under the new presidential administration?

    The answer to this question is unclear. The current President signaled that he might end DACA, but has not said what action—if any—he plans to take against DACA applicants and recipients. However, most immigrant rights groups agree that first-time DACA applicants should wait to file their applications until there is more information about the President’s plans. People renewing their deferred action status can still apply—but they might lose their filing fees if the program ends. All DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals should pay close attention to the news (or talk to an immigration lawyer) for the most up-to-date information.

     

    Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - How to Apply/Renew DACA - USCIS

    Please click the "play" button below to watch the video.