Hello FAHC fam! This is your webmaster Joanne and I'm here to share my experiences in obtaining WA state residency as an undergraduate student. The process of residency is definitely a time consuming process and an important commitment. I had to be okay with the fact that I had to spend an extra year of college, but it actually gave me the chance to spend more time exploring UW’s programs and figuring out what I wanted to study.
I’ll first start with a little of my own background. I moved to Seattle from Ventura, CA in 2015 to attend UW, and as an out of state student, I was required to pay nonresident tuition. Tuition at that time was $11,839 for residents compared to $34,143 for nonresidents before financial aid. I started the process to gain residency in Summer of 2016 and recently gained it this Winter of 2018.
I highly recommend visiting the Residency office website here, which contains all the key information on residency. The application process and contact information can be found there as well. Keep in mind that the office has limited staff, and it will take a few business days for an email reply. I recommend setting up an appointment ahead of time if you would like your questions answered more quickly.
To gain residency, it is required by WA state law to establish bona fide domicile, meaning “a person’s permanent residence.” The state statutes can be found here and state rules and regulations here. In summary you must establish WA legal ties and prove your physical presence in the state for 12 months before applying. The documents you must submit to prove this include:
In addition, you will apply as financially dependent or financially independent student. Requirements vary for other types of students such as medical and non-citizen students, which can be found on the website. For financially dependent students, your parents must establish the above requirements while continuing to claim you on their tax returns.
I chose to file as a single (not married) financially independent student. This meant my parents couldn’t claim me on their tax returns and I had to pay for 51% of my total expenses (including tuition and living) for the previous calendar year and for the current calendar year. For example, I applied for residency in November 2018. I had to prove financial independence from November 2016-November 2017, and November 2017-November 2018. Keep in mind that gift money or personal loans doesn’t count towards financial independence.
Documents required for financial independence are:
An important note on private student loans: you are allowed to have a cosigner, even if it’s your parent. Students under the age of 25 typically have low credit. I highly recommend using loans if you don’t have enough funding from scholarships or grants. This will aid in proving your financial independence to the residency office.
Furthermore, if you enroll for more than 7 credits per quarter, you are required to work 30 hours each week to prove you are not in WA state solely for educational purposes. You can't gain in state tuition if the school views your sole purpose is to live in WA just to go to UW. I know what you’re thinking, “But this is my sole purpose for moving to WA!” I know. The residency office pretty much knows. Don’t worry, you can still gain residency.
In addition to all the aforementioned documents, you are required to fill out a Residence Questionnaire. Applications are due the 30th day after the quarter begins. Most of the time the residency office will request additional documentation, which is due before the last day of the quarter.
Pay close attention to tuition deadlines!!! Submit all your application as early as possible because it takes 4-6 weeks for the office to process applications, even longer if you have to submit additional documentation. The last day to withdraw from classes and to drop a class without facing tuition forfeiture and fees is the 7th day of the quarter. If you’re anticipating to obtain residency the quarter you’re applying for and have already registered for more than 7 credits, submit your application so you can be notified before the forfeiture date.
I officially started this entire process in Summer of 2016. I fulfilled most of the bona fide domicile requirements in 2015, however I didn’t completely understand the financial independence aspect of the application process. My parents paid for my tuition in 2015 and I took more than 6 credits; the residency office didn’t consider me financially independent during this time period.
Starting in Autumn 2016 to Autumn 2017 I registered for only 6 credits per quarter. I used my FAFSA loans and a private loan I applied for with a parent cosigner to pay for my tuition each quarter. To supply my income I started working at Chipotle in Summer 2016 for up to 25 hours each week. I also qualified for Chipotle’s tuition reimbursement program and received $5,250, which further aided my financial independence.
Other out of state students I’ve met have opted to take a break from school altogether and work to gain financial independence more quickly. Keep in mind that with this option, you’ll have to complete a returning student application. However there is the option to take one quarter off. You can not register for classes one quarter but still be eligible to register for classes the next quarter. For example, you can take Spring quarter off and be eligible for Autumn registration because Summer quarter isn’t required. You can also take classes at a local community college during summer quarter and/or the quarter you take off from UW. This is a great way to save money while still earning credits.
Not everyone gains residency the first quarter they apply. I applied in Summer and Autumn 2017 before I finally gained it this winter. The first two rejections were because the residency office didn’t consider me financially independent enough. If your application is rejected you can move your application to the next quarter for reconsideration. Do this as soon as possible so it will be first in line for review.
Some overarching advice I have is to be diligent. Make sure you’re meeting all the requirements, and don’t hesitate to contact the residency office if you have any questions at all. Check your emails consistently and pay attention to deadlines. The whole process may seem daunting, but if you’re really passionate about UW I think it’s worth the money you’ll save and the experiences you’ll gain here. I wish you best of luck! If you have any questions for me feel free to contact me at email@example.com or comment below.