A pair of siblings have encountered a serious roadblock to their educational goals in the state of Florida. At ages 20 and 18, the East Manatee students were preparing to begin their college studies at Valencia Community College with plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida. Under their parents’ E-2 visas, they are eligible for in-state tuition if they can prove residency, but at age 21, they must transition to their own F-1 student visas. Under F-1 visas, the students become ineligible for in-state tuition.
The E-2 family visas are non-immigrant visas that are typically used by those coming to the United States with plans to start businesses or make other investments. The temporary status does not have a time restriction, meaning that many people using this type of visa remain for long periods. Dependents may not get jobs when their parents have E-2 status. One attorney noted that the challenge facing this family is common for those in the country under E-2 visas. Although the family contributes to the state economy and education system by paying taxes and living in the area, they do not qualify indefinitely for in-state benefits.
The family notes that the situation seems unfair in light of recent state legislation allowing illegal immigrants eligibility for in-state tuition. However, one immigration attorney noted that the F-1 status does not carry the risk of deportation that illegal immigrants face. Additionally, the family could have applied for citizenship early enough to ensure that these dependents did not face this challenge.
Families who are unsure of their long-term plans when immigrating to the United States may find it helpful to meet with an immigration lawyer to discuss the implications of a long-term stay. If education in the country may be an interest for dependents, it may be beneficial to seek citizenship as early as possible.
Source: Bradenton Herald, “East Manatee students, Florida residents for 10 years on parents’ visa, can’t qualify for full in-state tuition “, Sabrina Rocco, June 29, 2014