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Undocumented Immigrants Can Now Claim In-State Tuition

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Students mingle on VCU's campus. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Undocumented immigrants in Virginia can now qualify for in-state college tuition, after a new law passed by the General Assembly this year went into effect.

Undocumented students can claim in-state tuition if they attended a Virginia high school for at least two years and graduated after 2008, and if their household filed state income taxes for at least two years. 

During a call with the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Richmond student Karime Espara said the discount will open new doors.

“I can continue my education without having to worry about ‘How am I going to pay for this? How are my parents going to help me pay for this?’ so it's going to be a lot less stressful,” Espara said.

Nady Peralta with the Legal Aid Justice Center says undocumented students who were previously classified as out-of-state should not assume that will change automatically.

“Most schools have a deadline for the first day of class if you want to contest your classification,” Peralta said. “So that means that if you've been classified as out of state and you think you should be in-state, you have that period between July 1 and the first day of class, usually.”

She says Virginia’s economy will benefit from making immigration status no longer a financial barrier for prospective students.

“I’m thinking about people who can get jobs that wouldn’t have been available to them without a college degree. I’m thinking about down the line, generational impacts, the wealth that you can build having been a graduate,” Peralta said.

Another new Virginia law championed by advocates that grants undocumented immigrants driving privilege cards will go into effect January 2021.

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