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Articles / Paying for College / Virginia Residency for Overseas Student?

March 5, 2013

Virginia Residency for Overseas Student?

Question: I live in a foreign country and I would like to study in the U.S. I'm a U.S citizen but I have never lived in Virginia. My parents lived there 15 years ago. I would like to know if I can qualify for in-state tuition, If I live 1 year in Virginia.

The fact that your parents used to live in Virginia is not relevant unless they hold jobs (typically in the military or government) that might allow them to retain a state residency in the U.S. Presumably, if this is the case, you would have said so.

In order for you to become a Virginia resident, you would have to not only reside in Virginia for a full year prior to enrolling in college, but you would also have to be financially independent of your parents. You would have to prove that you are completely self-supporting. The State of Virginia will need “clear and convincing evidence" that you have no financial ties to your parents. In such situations, the decision-makers for the state tend to be very wary and will look carefully to determine your source(s) of income.

These decision-makers will also be determining if you have indicated the intention of making Virginia your permanent home. Obviously, this is something that is very difficult to both prove and disprove. Buying a home in Virginia and taking out a long-term mortgage on that property is one good way to indicate your intent to remain in the state, but, again, the decision-makers will be looking to see where the funds came from. If the money is your parents' and they are not residing in Virginia, you will not be considered independent from them, even if you, yourself, are physically in Virginia.

As you can imagine, state governments are not eager to give tuition benefits to those who aren't really state residents, so the deck is stacked against you.

If, however, you are planning to be a graduate student in Virginia and can truly be self-supporting for a year prior to matriculating, then you've got a better shot. It is extremely difficult for undergrads to prove independence and intent to remain in the state.

You can read more about the guidelines for Virginia residency here:


Some persistent students, especially at the grad-school level, are able to wangle residency in a state where they did not grow up and/or attend high school. But it will take more than a minimum-wage job and a Cavaliers sweatshirt for you to make a convincing case in Virginia!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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