This state page integrates student data, economic contributions, state policies, effective practices, and other resources to learn about and better support the state’s undocumented, other immigrant, and international students in higher education.
We classify Illinois as a Comprehensive Access state in terms of inclusive in-state tuition and state financial aid policies for undocumented students. The Portal tracks state policies for undocumented students on in-state tuition, state financial aid, professional and occupational licensure, and driver licenses.
Higher education in the U.S. benefits from the participation of immigrant and international students. First and second-generation individuals comprise 28% of all students enrolled in higher education, a growing figure that underscores the importance of immigrant-origin students in the classroom and our workforce.
|All Students in Higher Education in Illinois||738,000|
|First-Generation Immigrant Students||75,000|
|Second-Generation Immigrant Students||139,000|
Note: First-generation immigrants were born abroad and immigrated to the U.S. Second-generation immigrants are U.S.-born individuals with at least one immigrant parent. First-generation immigrants include undocumented immigrants. First-generation immigrants do not include international students on a visa.
The U.S. is home to more than 427,000 undocumented students enrolled in higher education. In their pursuit of higher education, undocumented students actively ready themselves to fill critical skill shortages and become better positioned to support their families, communities, and the U.S. economy.
|Undocumented Students in Higher Education||17,757|
|DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education||8,784|
|Non-DACA Eligible Students in Higher Education||8,973|
|Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year||4,000|
Note: Undocumented students are a sub-group of first-generation students.
International students comprise only 5 percent of all students in higher education, but provide significant economic, academic and cultural contributions that enrich learning, enrollment and funding opportunities for American students.
|International Students in Higher Education||46,599|
|Economic Contributions of International Students in the State||$1.6 billion|
|Jobs Supported by International Students in the State||18,163|
|Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants||9,334|
Note: Optional Practical Training participants are a subgroup of international students.
Immigrant residents, including undocumented immigrants and DACA-eligible residents, play an important role in the state's economy, contributing spending power and paying federal, state, and local taxes.
|All Immigrant Residents in Illinois||1,761,539|
|Immigrant Share of Total Population||13.9%|
|Undocumented Immigrants in State||405,901|
|DACA-Eligible Residents in State||55,199|
|Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents||$1.056 billion|
|DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions||$187.5 million|
|DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions||$182.2 million|
Note: DACA-eligible residents are a sub-group of undocumented immigrant residents.
Higher education helps prepare all students, including immigrant and international students, to fill critical career and skills needs.
|State Immigrant Workers Fill Critical Skills Needs|
|Share of STEM Workers Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||25.0%|
|Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||18%|
|Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||21.2%|
|First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools||40,887|
|Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential||51%|
Note: First-generation immigrants were born abroad and immigrated to the U.S.
You can find additional state data, including by congressional district, in the following resources by immigrant population (AIC) and international students (NAFSA).
Evaluating Access for Undocumented & Refugee Students
State policies in four key areas – in state tuition, state financial aid, professional and occupational licensure, and driver licenses – play an important role in expanding access to higher education and workforce development for undocumented students. The section below on in-state tuition also includes policies related to refugee students.
In-State Tuition & State Financial Aid Access and Affordability
Comprehensive Access: Policies provide statewide access to in-state tuition and some state financial aid or scholarships for the state's resident DACA recipients and undocumented students.
Professional & Occupational Licensure Workforce Entry & Eligibility
Comprehensive Access: Policies allow individuals to obtain occupational licensure in all professions regardless of their immigration status, provided that they meet all other requirements.
Driver Licenses & Identification Mobility
Accessible: Policies provide the state’s undocumented residents with access to driver licenses and/or state identification regardless of their immigration status, but these are not REAL ID compliant.
Illinois provides eligible undocumented residents, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state tuition, state financial aid, professional and occupational licenses in many professions, and driver licenses and state identification.
Illinois Public Act (P.A.) 093-0007, signed into law on May 20, 2003, provides eligible undocumented students, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.
Students must meet certain requirements to access in-state tuition, including residing with their parents or guardians while attending a public or private high school in the state for at least (3) years, graduating from these programs or receiving an equivalent of a high school diploma, and signing an affidavit stating that the individual will file an application to become a permanent resident of the United States at the earliest opportunity the individual is eligible to do so.
Refugee In-State Tuition: Illinois does not appear to have state policies that expand access to in-state tuition to the state’s refugee students. Policies may vary by institution.
Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 2691, signed into law on June 21, 2019, allows the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, to access state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition.
Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 3438, signed into law in September 2021, directs public universities in the state to designate an employee to serve as an Undocumented Student Resource Liaison. The designated employee would be responsible for helping students without documentation to access financial aid and other academic support.
Additional Financial Aid
TheDream.US is a national organization that offers scholarships to DACA and undocumented students attending eligible postsecondary institutions across the country. In Illinois, the following institutions are TheDream.US Partner Colleges:
- Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago;
- Dominican University;
- Illinois College;
- Lewis University;
- National Louis University;
- North Park University;
- Northeastern Illinois University;
- University of Illinois at Chicago; and,
- Illinois Institute of Technology.
Illinois allows individuals in most professions to obtain professional and occupational licensure regardless of their immigration status.
Illinois Senate Bill (S.B.) 3109, signed into law on August 24, 2018, amends the state’s Department of Professional Regulation Law to allow applicants to provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as an alternative to providing a Social Security Number (SSN) when applying for a professional license issued by the department. The bill provides that no applicant shall be denied a license solely based on their immigration or citizenship status. It also amends the Pharmacy Practice Act by removing language requiring an applicant for a registered pharmacist license to provide evidence indicating that he or she is a United States citizen or legally admitted immigrant.
Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 4332, passed by the state legislature on April 7, 2022, amends the Health Care Worker Background Check Act by permitting individuals to substitute an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) on an Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) license application if the agency requires the individual to provide a Social Security Number (SSN). This, in turn, ensures that all qualified individuals can obtain a license to practice the profession for which they have trained for.
Illinois Senate Bill (S.B.) 0023, signed into law on August 20, 2015, authorizes the Illinois Supreme Court to grant eligible DACA recipients a license to practice law in the state. Applicants must fulfill all the requirements to practice law within the state, as well as meet the following conditions:
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must approve the applicant’s request for DACA;
- The applicants’ DACA is not expired or has been properly renewed; and,
- The applicant has a current and valid employment authorization document issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 3751 passed by the state legislature on May 19, 2023. This bill amends the Illinois Municipal Code by allowing individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States, under federal law, including DACA recipients, the opportunity to apply for city or county law enforcement jobs including police officer. The individual must meet all educational, training, and professional requirements other than citizenship. If the Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker signs the bill, it will become effective January 1, 2024.
Undocumented immigrants living in Illinois are eligible to obtain a driver license. Senate Bill (S.B.) 0957, signed into law on January 28, 2013, permits undocumented residents in the state to apply for a Temporary Visitors Driver’s License (TVDL).
DACA recipients in Illinois are also allowed to obtain a driver license or state identification card.
Illinois is considering legislation to extend access to state financial aid and benefits for undocumented students, and access to professional licensures for undocumented immigrants.
Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 5028, introduced on January 31, 2022, provides that a noncitizen graduate student who does not possess a valid visa or status as a lawful permanent resident is eligible for State financial aid and benefits. This includes eligibility to apply or receive consideration for any student aid or benefit funded or administered by the State, any State agency, or any public institution of higher learning including scholarships, grants, awards, stipends, room and board assistance, tuition waivers, or other financial or in-kind assistance. Furthermore, students may not be subject to any caps on grant assistance available under the Monetary Award Program other than those required by State law.
The following narratives highlight stories of immigrant, refugee, and international students, alumni, and scholars, including in their own words or as shared publicly.
Student Narrative: Mauricio Ramirez
Mauricio Ramirez from Illinois is a Research Associate Analyst and a Chief Investment Officer. His work helps prepare Dreamers for careers in similar fields.Continue Reading
Student Narrative: Johann Hayag
Johann Hayag graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Chemistry. Driven by his passion for the environment and fairness he is now the CEO and Founder of Aktibo Athletics.Continue Reading
Alumni Narrative: Amit
Dr. Amit Sapra came to the U.S. from India to pursue his medical residency at the University of Arkansas.Continue Reading
Effective Practices and State Resources
Spotlight on effective practices and policy, research, or community-based state resources.
Report: Higher Education and Success for Undocumented Students Start with 9 Key Criteria
Higher Education is the key to achieving social & economic mobility in the U.S. The Education Trust analyzed 9 criteria in the 15 states with the largest shares of undocumented college students to determine whether state policies are helping or hurting undocumented students’ ability to access & complete college.Continue Reading
Report: The Post-DACA Generation is Here
A new report finds that an estimated 100,000 undocumented students will graduate from high school in 2022, with most of them not eligible for DACA. The new FWD.us report, published in May 2022, The Post-DACA Generation is Here, explains how DACA’s unavailability impacts undocumented youth in the U.S.Continue Reading
Undocumented Students in Higher Education (Updated March 2021)
More than 427,000 undocumented students in the U.S. are enrolled in higher education, including 181,000 DACA-eligible individuals.Continue Reading