About Mixed-Status Family Students

Who are mixed-status family students?

Mixed-status family students are students that are either: 1) undocumented, but have family members that are U.S. residents or U.S. citizens or 2) are U.S. residents or U.S. citizens but have family members that are undocumented.


Eligibility for federal services:

  • Citizen students with undocumented parents can qualify for most forms of federal financial assistance. To discuss eligibility, contact the Office of Financial Aid.
  • Citizens are eligible for services to maintain well-being. These programs usually refer to food stamps, Medicaid, TANF, housing assistance and SSI benefits.
  • Non-citizens’ eligibility for services depends on their status and on the source of funding.
  • Undocumented immigrants are barred from access to any means-tested benefits, but can receive emergency medical assistance that includes medical assistance during pregnancy.
  • Lawful immigrants are generally restricted from participating in federally-funded means-tested benefits for the first 5 years of their legal status. During this time, assistance may be available through some states’ programs or limited private sector programs by nonprofit or faith organizations.
  • Refugees, asylees, and some victims of domestic abuse will qualify for more generous federal and state programs than the undocumented and some legal permanent residents.


Issues mixed-status families face

  • Confusion over eligibility rules leads to a reduction in benefit use.
  • Eligibility depends on the status of the person receiving benefits (e.g. a child, but not the parent). However, confusion and fear regarding eligibility rules has caused a reduction in benefit use.
  • In mixed-status families, there is reluctance to seek benefits even for those who are eligible.
    • Many families with non-citizen members fear interaction with government officials.
    • Many families also worry about being perceived as a “public charge.” These situations results in a “chilling effect” in which eligible members do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
  • The unequal status of family members may cause tensions/divisions
    • Although part of the same family, one sibling may have access to resources another does not or one parent may have access to resources another does not.
    • Although both citizens, a child in one family may have greater access to resources than a child in another family due to the status of the parents.


Large parts of this section were based from research about mixed-status families conducted at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.