It is no secret that many immigrants are young students seeking to attend the United States’ top universities. Many of these universities are in California, but California universities’ out-of-state tuition rates can be prohibitively expensive. What is considered a “resident” for California university tuition purposes has some interplay with immigration laws. This article will explore some of them here, based on the University of California tuition guidelines.
For UC tuition purposes, California has two requirements to satisfy: a physical presence requirement and an intent requirement. However, for noncitizens who hold nonimmigrant visas (H-1B, F-1, etc.) there are a specific list of visas that will not be able to satisfy either of these requirements. Some common examples are B-1/B-2, F-1, F-2, or H-1B visas. These nonimmigrants must change their status to another visa type or adjust status to obtain legal permanent residence status (i.e., a green card).
However, even if one has a green card or have a qualifying nonimmigrant visa, it does not mean they automatically qualify for “residence” status under the UC tuition guidelines. They must still satisfy the two requirements set out above: physical presence and an intent to be a California resident. Sometimes, nonimmigrants and green card holders may spend significant amounts of time abroad for many reasons. Even if such a noncitizen buys a home in California and pays California taxes, the existence of other homes in other states or abroad may cause the University of California to question whether the student and his or her family intend to make California their home.
More specifically, a person must spend at least 366 days (1 day and 1 year) in California to satisfy the physical presence requirement. Some breaks for travel are acceptable, but large breaks in the 366 day requirement may cause problems with obtaining California residence status. Also, for the intent requirement, this is a fact specific inquiry that depends on each individual case. Some examples of documents that will help satisfy the intent requirement are sale records of previous homes, evidence of a place of residence in California, receipts, employment records, having a California driver’s license, and registering to vote in California. These are again just examples and an attorney should assess the entirety of the situation.
Another issue for young noncitizens attempting to become California residence for UC tuition purposes is the relationship they have with their parents. Often, even if the student lives in California, if the parents are residing elsewhere then it may prevent being considered a California resident. One way around this is to show that the student is wholly financially independent and need not depend on his parents for financial assistance, but this is a rare exception.
If you have questions about the effect your visa or your immigration plans may have on attending a University of California school, or if you have other immigration questions, contact our office today so that we may assist you.