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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 Wisconsin274,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students22,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students30,000
International Students13,650

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 Education2,389
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education1,273
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year3,000

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 Education13,650
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$486.2 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State4,650
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants1,271

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 Wisconsin303,439
Immigrant Share of Total Population5.1%
Undocumented Immigrants in State76,941

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 Immigrants7.80%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools11,631
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential52%

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

    Restrictive: Policies actively bar access to in-state tuition or state financial aid for the state's undocumented students, including DACA recipients.

  • 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

    Restrictive: Policies do not provide the state's undocumented residents with access to driver licenses and state identification, but DACA recipients can still obtain a driver's license or state identification card.

Enacted Policies

Wisconsin prohibits undocumented students, including DACA recipients, from accessing in-state tuition and state financial aid. The state does not appear to have policies that extend occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients. However, Wisconsin has expanded access to in-state tuition for eligible refugee students.

Wisconsin does not provide undocumented residents with access to driver licenses and state identification.


In-State Tuition

Wisconsin Assembly Bill (A.B.) 40, signed into law on June 18, 2011, effectively bars undocumented students, including DACA recipients, from accessing in-state tuition. The bill revoked previous legislation that granted in-state tuition to undocumented students.

Refugee In-State Tuition: An exception to residing in Wisconsin for twelve months prior to enrollment applies if you are a student on refugee status as defined under 8 USC 1101(a)(42); you moved to Wisconsin immediately upon arrival in the United States, and you have resided in this State continuously since moving here. If you are in this situation, you need to demonstrate intent to establish and maintain a permanent home in Wisconsin according to the criteria under Section (e) of Wisconsin Statutes 36.27(2).

Wisconsin Senate Bill (S.B.) 360, signed into law on April 14, 1992, states that refugees may be considered residents of Wisconsin for in-state tuition at Wisconsin Vocational, Technical and Adult Education (VTAE) schools if they meet the following requirements: 1) are defined as a refugee by federal law; 2) moved to Wisconsin immediately upon arrival in the United States; and 3) has continuously resided in Wisconsin since then, if he or she demonstrates an intent to establish and maintain a permanent home in Wisconsin.

State Financial Aid

Wisconsin does not have policies that expand access to state financial aid to undocumented students.

Wisconsin’s A.B. 40 revoked previous legislation that allowed some of the state’s undocumented students to access state financial aid.

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 Wisconsin, the following institution is a TheDream.US Partner College:

  • Viterbo University (Private)

In addition, undocumented and DACA students may be eligible for an out-of-state scholarship to attend the following institutions:

  • Christian Brothers University
  • Delaware State University
  • Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Trinity Washington University (Women’s College)
  • Dominican University
Professional & Occupational Licensure

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

Wisconsin 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 in Wisconsin do not have access to a driver license or state identification card. Assembly Bill (A.B.) 69, signed into law on April 1, 2007, requires individuals applying for or renewing a Wisconsin driver license or state identification card to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status.

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

Effective Practices and State Resources

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

  • 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.

    Continue Reading
  • 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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  • Research

    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.

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