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Residency for Tuition Purposes

AidUnder N. C. General Statutes GS 116-143.1(b), “to qualify as a resident for tuition purposes, a person must have established legal residence (domicile) in North Carolina and maintained that legal residence for at least 12 months immediately prior to his or her classification as a resident for tuition purposes.”

Every applicant for admission or readmission to North Carolina University, who claims to be eligible for the N. C. tuition rate, must supply the information requested on the In-State Tuition application form and submit the application 30 days before the first day of classes of the proposed term of enrollment..

For minors (under age 18): Traditional common law generally presumes that minors share the legal residency of their parents. If both parents have established legal residency in North Carolina, the minor will also have legal residency. If the minor's parents are divorced or separated with one living in the state and one living elsewhere, the minor may be presumed to share legal residency with the in-state parent if the in-state parent claims the minor as a dependent for tax purposes. Some exceptions exist (see GS 116-143.1(j) and k). 

The remainder of this information applies generally to students who are 18 or older. 

Establishing Legal Residency

A. To be a legal resident in North Carolina, a student must first physically live in the state. This is simply a matter of where one has a dwelling or home. 

B. The student must also show a good-faith intention of staying in the state permanently or at least for an indefinite amount of time.  This is a more difficult test than physical presence, but the key element is that the student plans to establish permanent residency and is not in North Carolina only to go to school. 

To determine a student's intentions, all relevant factors must be evaluated, especially a student's conduct.  The following acts are examples of what may serve as evidence of residentiary intent:

  • Paying North Carolina state taxes.
  • Having a North Carolina driver's license.
  • Having one's car registered and licensed in the state.
  • Being registered to vote in the state.
  • Owning a home or land in the state.
  • Being employed in the state.
  • Having bank accounts in the state.
  • Spending substantial time in the state during vacations and holidays.
  • Maintaining social and business relations in the state.
  • Parents are residents in the state (will be used as a factor even if the student is over 18).
  • Serving on jury duty.

Factors generally unfavorable to students attempting to establish in-state residency include:

  • Student does any of the activities listed above in another state.
  • Student begins living in North Carolina only after enrolling in a public university.
  • Student lives in the state only while in school and returns to another state for vacations and holidays.
  • A parent or someone outside North Carolina provides financial support.
  • Student leaves permanent possessions in another state and brings to North Carolina only what is needed for a temporary stay.

Legal residence also requires that the student have the legal capacity to remain permanently in North Carolina. For persons who are not U.S. citizens, the visa classification is important to legal capacity for residency. Persons who hold immigrant visas usually have the capacity to remain permanently in North Carolina, as do persons who hold a "green card."  Some nonimmigrant visas may be suitable to establish capacity for North Carolina residency. However, the following visa categories are legally incapable of qualifying for North Carolina residency: B, C, D, F, J, M, P, Q, S and TN. Persons with those types of visas will have to pay out-of-state tuition.

Twelve-Month Qualifying Period

Once legal residency is established, students must show that they have maintained that residency for at least 12 months to qualify for in-state tuition. This includes both the physical-presence requirement and further evidence that during the 12 months the student had a good-faith intention of establishing permanent residency. A student must meet the 12-month requirement before the beginning of the semester to qualify for in-state tuition. If the student meets the 12-month requirement in the middle of a semester, the student will be eligible for in-state tuition in the next semester, but not the current one.


In some instances, students may qualify for in-state tuition or tuition waivers without fulfilling the residency requirements:
  • Active-duty members of the armed services are charged in-state tuition while abiding in North Carolina because of their active military duty in the state. This applies to reservists too. "Abiding" means living here, even without intent to make it one's permanent home. If subsequently reassigned outside North Carolina, the members continue to qualify for in-state tuition as long as they remain continuously enrolled in the program they were in prior to reassignment.
  • A dependent relative who shares the abode of a member of the armed services who is in North Carolina on active duty also qualifies for in-state tuition.
  • A legal resident will not lose residency status due to service in the military at locations outside the state.
  • A nonresident who marries a resident and thereby becomes a legal resident accedes to the spouse's residency time in N.C. for purposes of satisfying the 12-month requirement.
  • If a student establishes residency for tuition purposes, then loses it while enrolled in a state institution of higher education, he or she has a 12-month grace period (extended to the end of any term in which he/she is enrolled) for in-state tuition.
  • When a legal resident ceases to be enrolled at an institution of higher education, and then moves out of state, he or she may reenroll as a resident for tuition purposes without meeting the 12-month requirement if he or she reestablishes North Carolina residency within 12 months of the initial out-of-state move.

Responsibilities of the Individual Seeking In-State Status

The Admissions Office will initially classify each student as either eligible or ineligible for in-state tuition. It is the student's responsibility to provide information to determine her/his classification of residency. 

A student's initial classification when enrolled may change if the student circumstances change. The student then has the responsibility of petitioning the university for a change in status before a new semester begins. Both graduate and undergraduate students must complete a "Resident-and-Tuition Status Application." These forms are available from the undergraduate admissions office. Graduate students must also fill out a Graduate School N.C. Residency Form. Along with the application, students must include copies of the following, when applicable:

  • N.C. driver's license.
  • N.C. vehicle registration.
  • N.C. voter registration.
  • N.C. and federal income tax returns.
  • Wage-earning statements from all jobs held for the current year.
  • Listing of personal property taxes.
  • Student loan agreements, financial aid forms.
  • A marriage certificate, if claim of residency is based upon a spouse's residency acts, and copies of those acts.
  • For non-U.S. citizens, a residence Supplemental Status Form, accompanied by copies of an individual's approval for permanent residence status showing the date of adjudication by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The student is responsible for providing the university with any new information that could change her/his residency status. Failure by a student to provide such information could lead to disciplinary action such as cancellation of registration and enrollment. 

Additional Information

For more information, contact the admissions office.