Residency FAQ

To qualify for in-state tuition, individuals generally must have a tie to a 12-month Washington domiciliary or primary residency period—either their own as an independent resident or that of a Washington resident parent/guardian as a dependent resident—immediately prior to the term in which they first receive resident tuition (there are some exceptions to this 12-month requirement including ties to military service and membership in WA Native American tribal groups). The domicile version can happen simultaneously to enrollment, but has stricter requirements than those for establishing residency based solely on non-student primary residency.

Washington domicile/primary residency is generally proven by a combination of factors, most commonly by the location of the primary/permanent living location, employment status, and by actions like registering vehicles, registering to vote, obtaining an ID/driver’s license, etc. The dates that such actions were taken are an important part of determining when an individual severed ties to their previous state of residency and whether they can be considered a Washington resident for tuition purposes. Washington law (WAC 250-18-030) includes a list of factors that demonstrate domicile that are more commonly used by institutions when reviewing an individual’s residency classification.

An individual seeking to establish residency independently while concurrently attending at a WA institution may also need to be able to demonstrate that they a) were not claimed as a dependent for tax purposes by another individual, b) were able to cover the majority of their own living expenses by their own means for the calendar year immediately prior to the year in which the student applies for resident status and for the calendar year in which the student applies for resident status, and c) would have the ability to maintain this independence going forward. This generally requires full-time or nearly full-time employment, though Financial Aid awarded in a student’s name may also be counted as a resource available to the student (personal loans, parent PLUS loans and gifts do not count).

Washington statutes regarding residency for tuition purposes are specifically written so that anyone who enters a Washington university as a non-resident is presumed to be in Washington primarily for educational purposes for every term in which they take more than 6 credits. Those terms generally do not count toward the 12-month domiciliary or primary residency period unless the student can show a reason for residency beyond education (relocation for employment purposes, for example). This makes it extremely difficult to establish residency while attending any Washington college/school on anything other than a limited, part-time basis.

No. If the only reason for coming to Washington State is to go to school, and you take more than 6 credits every term, then you are unlikely to ever become a resident for tuition and fees purposes. In other words, if you come to WWU from out of state so you can attend WWU, you should always plan financially to be a non-resident for tuition and fees purposes for all of the years you are enrolled at WWU.

It often would change your graduation timeline to do so. Make an appointment with the Residency Officer to discuss your situation and options.

If you are a dependent student (your parents support a significant portion of your cost of attendance and claim you for federal tax purposes) your parents would need to establish full domiciliary in Washington State for at least one year prior to your eligibility for a change in residency classification. A residency questionnaire and supporting documentation must be submitted for evaluation.

If you are a dependent student of a parent/guardian and the one parent/guardian is fully domiciled in Washington State for more than 12 months, you may be eligible for a change in residency classification. The evaluation is very dependent on the domiciliary evidence of the one parent/guardian. It is important to keep in mind that it is the “domiciliary” that matters most in one parent/guardian evaluations. In other words, the one parent/guardian must have severed ties with their previous state and acquired all applicable WA documents as well as established a Home, employment or business and transferred all domiciliary related belongings to WA State at least 12 months prior to requesting a residency review. Use of a family second home, vacation home or investment property for domiciliary is not effective, and if there is a history or existing possibility of domiciliary in another state then documents may be requested to help differentiate the actual domiciliary of the one parent/guardian in relationship to other family members. One parent/guardian domiciliary can be complicated and applicants are welcome to contact the residency officer to discuss their unique concerns.

That kind of situation can be complicated and depends on the circumstances. Please contact our office, so we can discuss your specific situation.

The evaluation time can range significantly based upon the number of evaluations pending and the time of the term. Current term evaluations always have priority over future term evaluations. During the evaluation process an applicant may be asked for a narrative or timeline to explain documentation provided or be asked to submit more documentation. A residency classification change is not about meeting a set of minimums but establishing a breadth of accurate evidence that clearly establishes dependence/independence and domiciliary.

Domicile or domiciliary is often described in common terms as a person’s Home with a capital “H”. Domicile is a combination of factors and is demonstrated by declarative actions that demonstrate intentional residency, like registering to vote, registering property, obtaining a state-issued credential, establishing professional licenses, filing taxes, establishing a WA physical residence, etc.

A domiciliary can only be one place; even if you own multiple properties around the world, there is only one domiciliary for all of us. This also means, from a documentation point of view, that no other place in another state can be reasonably considered your domiciliary. Thus, all legally required documentation such as WA driver’s license, vehicle registrations, employment/business licenses, etc., must have been converted to WA State documents. Other WA laws require new residents to convert items like licenses/IDs, so this type of action is frequently used to "start the clock" on residency.

While physical presence is a factor in establishing domicile, once domicile is in place, physical presence is not required to maintain domicile. Individuals who establish WA domicile, but then move outside of the state for purposes like military or civil service assignment, internships, professional or educational programs, contract work, maritime service, or similar, may retain WA domicile if they continue to actively maintain WA ties (e.g., keep a WA license ID, maintain their WA vehicle registration, continue to keep property in WA, remain a WA voter, file taxes as a WA resident, etc.) and return to the state when they have the opportunity.

Primary residency simply refers to the location of an individual's physical place of residence. Physical presence in Washington for reasons other than postsecondary education is the essential factor for individuals who establish residency based on 12 months of primary residence prior to starting their current enrollment (or re-enrollment) at Western. Lease/property ownership documentation and/or employment documentation is the most common way to demonstrate primary residency. Transfer of driver’s license, registering as a voter, registering a vehicle, etc. still are helpful actions for establishing a primary residency timeline and, as previously noted, are required of residents by other state laws.

During the required 12-month primary residency period, an individual certainly can travel for employment or personal reasons, but they need to be able to demonstrate that they still maintained their primary physical residence in WA. A business conference or a weekend in Portland is not a break in primary residency. Gaps in physical presence of more than a week or two when there is no physical residence maintained in WA while away are a different matter.

Ordinarily, you become domiciled in Washington by severing ties with your previous state and obtaining state-related documents (such as: driver's license, vehicle registration, voter registration, etc.) that attach you to living, working and contributing as a citizen to Washington State. 12 months after you have established Washington as your home, you may submit a residency questionnaire and supporting documentation for evaluation.

To be considered financially independent you must be able to show that you met the majority of your own living expenses for the calendar year immediately prior to the year in which you apply for resident status and for the calendar year in which you apply for resident status. Living expenses include not only room, board, and other standard living expenses, but also any expenses associated with college tuition. Financial aid grants, scholarships, and loans authorized by the financial aid office in the student's name may be considered as income. Personal loans, parent PLUS loans, gifts, and cash earnings generally are not counted as income. Realistically, a financially independent student, especially if under the age of 25, will often be employed for many hours per week and enroll part-time in order to make ends meet.

Financially independent also means the lack of or very limited dependence on anyone else’s support in any way. A financially independent student cannot be listed as a dependent on a current or future parent or guardian federal tax return, and a financially independent student will have their own past and current federal tax records that document their income. In addition, a financially independent student must meet all domiciliary requirements as well at time of evaluation.

It may. Considering the fact that the first principle of gaining residency is 12 consecutive months of physical presence in Washington, you risk the chance of fulfilling that minimum requirement if you leave for the summer. That is particularly true if you are going back to your home state, and even more true if you are living with your parents in your home state for the summer.

Assuming you left the state only for education purposes, and you did not change your documents while there, you most likely can still be classified as a resident here. Furthermore, if you are dependent on your Washington parent/guardian, you may be eligible for residency.

Residency classification is complicated and sometimes an individual’s case is unique due to immigration status, family issues, military or civil service or having moved frequently. Please email questions regarding residency to the WWU Residency service account.