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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 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 Virginia552,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students64,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students60,000
International Students20,274

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 Education12,387
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year2,000

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

International students comprise only 5.5 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 Education20,274
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$717.5 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State8,323
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants7,086

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 Virginia1,089,294
Immigrant Share of Total Population12.8%
Undocumented Immigrants in State265,830
DACA-Eligible Residents in State21,848
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$386.5 million
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$72.7 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$46.7 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 Immigrants22.8%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants14%
Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants18.7%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools23,464

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 (NAE) and international students (NAFSA).

State Policies

Evaluating Access for Undocumented 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.

  • 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

    No State Policy: No policies identified that actively expand access to occupational licensure for individuals who do not have legal immigration status.

  • 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

Virginia provides eligible undocumented residents, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state tuition and driver licenses and state identification.

Virginia passed legislation to provide undocumented residents with access to state financial aid, which goes into effect on August 1, 2022.

Virginia does not appear to have legislation that affirmatively extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.

In-State Tuition

Virginia House Bill (H.B.) 1547, which went into effect on July 1, 2020, allows certain undocumented students living in Virginia to access in-state tuition. Undocumented students must meet certain requirements to qualify for in-state tuition, including:

  1. Attended high school for at least two years in the Commonwealth and either,
    1. Graduated on or after July 1, 2008, from a public or private high school or program of home instruction in the Commonwealth, or
    2. Passed a high school equivalency examination approved by the Secretary of Education;
  2. Submitted evidence that they, in the case of a dependent student, or at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis has filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns free at least two years prior to the date of registration or enrollment; and,
  3. Register as an entering student in a public institution of higher education in the Commonwealth.

Virginia H.B. 1179, signed into law on April 6, 2020, provides certain individuals admitted to the United States as refugees or who have a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) with access to in-state tuition.

State Financial Aid

Virginia’s state legislature passed Senate Bill (S.B.) 1387 in February 2021 to expand access to state financial aid to undocumented students. The legislation would allow  the state’s undocumented students to be eligible for state financial aid, school-issued aid, and Tuition Assistance Grants if they meet certain requirements. Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) signed S.B. 1387 into law on March 12, 2021.

S.B. 1387 will go into effect on August 1, 2022.

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 Virginia, the following institutions are TheDream.US Partner Colleges:

  • George Mason University;
  • Marymount University; and,
  • Northern Virginia Community College.
Professional & Occupational Licensure

Virginia does not appear to have statewide legislation that affirmatively extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.

Driver Licenses

Undocumented immigrants living in Virginia are eligible to obtain a driver privilege card. Virginia Senate Bill (S.B.) 34, signed into law on April 22, 2020 and effective as of January 1, 2021, authorizes the issuance of driver privilege cards for individuals who cannot submit proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status. To qualify for the driver privilege card, individuals must provide evidence of reported income from a source in Virginia or have been claimed as a dependent on a Virginia tax return in the preceding 12 months.

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


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

  • Narrative

    Alumni Narrative: Myra

    Myra, a Burmese refugee, came to the U.S. on a student visa. She won asylum.

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Effective Practices and State Resources

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

  • Effective Practice

    Career Counseling Support for Undocumented Students

    A guide for career service offices to ensure strong career counseling support for undocumented students.

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  • Research

    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