Are US Citizens Living Abroad Treated as International or Domestic Applicants?

When it’s time to apply for college, understanding how your residency status impacts your application is crucial. This is especially true for US citizens living abroad who may be unsure whether they should identify as international or domestic applicants.

In this article, we will explore the nuances of this situation and provide clarity on your classification as an applicant.

Domestic or International Applicant: Explained

As a US citizen living in another country, you are generally considered a domestic applicant when applying to colleges and universities within the United States. This means you are eligible for the same admission requirements, academic standards, and application processes as your fellow citizens residing in the US.

However, it’s important to note that the classification of your applicant status may vary slightly depending on the policies of individual states and colleges.

State Residency and In-State Tuition Considerations

While you may be classified as a domestic applicant, it’s essential to understand that some states may have specific rules regarding eligibility for in-state tuition. In-state tuition typically offers a significantly lower cost of education, making it a desirable option for many students. However, these benefits are often reserved for students who can prove their residency in a particular state.

If you have previously resided in a state in the US, there’s a possibility that you may be eligible for in-state tuition in that state, even if you are currently living abroad. To determine your eligibility, colleges and universities will typically consider factors such as:

  1. State Tax Payments: If you continue to pay state taxes to a specific state while residing abroad, it may strengthen your case for being considered an in-state applicant. Paying state taxes demonstrates a continuing connection and financial contribution to that state, potentially increasing your chances of receiving in-state tuition.
  2. Residency Requirements: Each state has its own set of residency requirements for in-state tuition eligibility. These criteria often involve establishing a physical presence, such as living in the state for a certain period and providing evidence of domicile, such as a lease agreement, utility bills, or a driver’s license.

It’s important to thoroughly research the specific residency requirements of the state(s) you are interested in attending college in. Contacting the admissions offices of your target institutions and seeking clarification on their policies can also provide valuable insights.

Are US Citizens Living Abroad Treated as International or Domestic Applicants?

International Admissions Review Process

While you are primarily considered a domestic applicant, some colleges and universities may subject US citizens living abroad to their international admissions review process. This means that although you have domestic applicant status, certain institutions may assess your application using criteria typically employed for international students.

Colleges employing an international admissions review process often consider factors such as global perspectives, international experiences, and language proficiency. This approach allows institutions to evaluate the unique context of your education and experiences while living abroad.

It’s worth noting that whether a college treats you as a domestic or international applicant should be clearly outlined in their application requirements and guidelines. Understanding how an institution views your applicant status helps you tailor your application accordingly and present your experiences in the most advantageous way.


As a US citizen living abroad, you are generally classified as a domestic applicant when applying to colleges and universities in the United States. However, it’s important to research and understand the specific policies of the states and institutions you are interested in. While some states may require additional criteria to qualify for in-state tuition, others may subject US citizens abroad to an international admissions review process.

By being aware of these nuances, you can confidently navigate the college application process and present your unique experiences and qualifications effectively. Remember to reach out to the admissions offices of your desired institutions to clarify any doubts or questions you may have regarding your applicant status. Good luck with your college applications!

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