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State Data

Higher education in the U.S. benefits from the participation of immigrant and international students. First and second-generation individuals comprise 31% 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 Illinois750,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students108,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students157,000
International Students55,337

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 408,000 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 Education20,151
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education8,414
Non-DACA Eligible Students in Higher Education8,973
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year2,000

Note: Undocumented students are a sub-group of first-generation students.

International students comprise only 4 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 Education55,337
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$2.1 billion
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State21,158
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants9,334

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 Illinois1,805,424
Immigrant Share of Total Population14.2%
Undocumented Immigrants in State406,251
DACA-Eligible Residents in State44,002
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$895.0 million
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$142.4 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$150.8 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 Immigrants25.1%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants15.8%
Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants19.0%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools40,887
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential53%

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).

State Policies

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.

Enacted Policies

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.

In-State Tuition

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. 

State Financial Aid

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.

Illinois extends financial aid to both public and private postsecondary institutions.

Additional Financial Aid

TheDream.US is a national organization that offers scholarships to students with or without DACA or TPS attending eligible postsecondary institutions across the country. In Illinois, the following institutions are TheDream.US Partner Colleges:

  • Arrupe College of Loyola University of Chicago (Private)
  • Dominican University (Private)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology (Private)
  • National Louis University (Private)
  • North Central College (Private)
  • North Park University (Private)
  • Northern Illinois University (Public)
  • Roosevelt University (Private)
  • University of St. Francis (Private)
Professional & Occupational Licensure

Illinois allows individuals in most professions to obtain professional and occupational licensure regardless of their immigration status.

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:

  1. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must approve the applicant’s request for DACA;
  2. The applicants’ DACA is not expired or has been properly renewed; and,
  3. The applicant has a current and valid employment authorization document issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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.

Governor JB Pritzker signed House Bill (H.B.) 3751 into law on July 28, 2023. HB 3751 amended the Municipal Code by allowing individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States, including DACA recipients, the chance to apply for law enforcement positions at the city or county level. The individual must meet all educational, training, and professional requirements other than citizenship. 

Illinois Professional Licensure Requirements & Business Registration

To learn more about professional/occupational licensure requirements, review TheDream.US & Immigrant Finance Resource guide here

To learn more about state business and tax registration requirements, review TheDream.US & Immigrant Finance Resource guide here. 

The information in these guides is based on outreach to the state’s specific licensing boards and each state’s business and tax agencies from April to July 2023 and is subject to change. To get up to date information on requirements, individuals should verify with the appropriate state agency. 

Driver Licenses

Undocumented immigrants living in Illinois are eligible to obtain a driver license. On June 30, 2023 Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 3882 into law, which grants undocumented immigrants in Illinois the opportunity to obtain a standardized Illinois Driver’s License. This new standardized license will phase out the current Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL). It is called a “Standard” license instead of a “Non-compliant” one. Instead of saying “Not for Federal Identification,” it will be labeled as “Federal Limits Apply.” HB 3882 will be effective on January 1, 2024.

DACA recipients in Illinois are also allowed to obtain a driver license or state identification card.

Narratives

The following narratives highlight stories of immigrant, refugee, and international students, alumni, and scholars, including in their own words or as shared publicly.

  • Narrative

    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.

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  • Narrative

    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.

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  • Narrative

    Alumni Narrative: Amit

    Dr. Amit Sapra came to the U.S. from India to pursue his medical residency at the University of Arkansas.

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Effective Practices and State Resources

Spotlight on effective practices and policy, research, or community-based state resources.

  • Research

    Undocumented Students in Higher Education

    The new estimates show there are more than 408, 000 undocumented students enrolled in postsecondary education, representing about 1.9 percent of all postsecondary students. This estimate represents a decrease of 4.2 percent from 2019, when 427,000 undocumented students were enrolled.

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  • Research

    Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Higher Education (Updated August 2023)

    The report’s findings reveal the growing proportion of first and second generation immigrant students in postsecondary education, the diversity of these students, and their importance for future U.S. labor growth.

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  • Research

    Report: The Post-DACA Generation is Here

    A new report finds that an estimated 120,000 undocumented students will graduate from high school in 2023, with most of them not eligible for DACA. The new FWD.us report, published in May 2023, The Post-DACA Generation is Here, explains how DACA’s unavailability impacts undocumented youth in the U.S.

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