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Dependent vs. Independent Students

The determination of dependent or independent student status is important because it is the basis for whether the student has to submit his/her own documentation for residency (as an independent) or his/her parent’s or guardian’s documentation of residency (as a dependent). Parent means one or both of the parents of a student, any guardian of a student or any person in a parental relationship for at least 3 years to a student.

Proof of relationship may be required if you do not indicate a parental/guardian relationship with your claimant, or if your last names are different. Acceptable documentation for proof of relationship may include: birth certificate(s), marriage certificate (if name differs from birth certificate), or your claimant’s prior year’s tax documents. A combination of these documents may be required if a single form of proof is inconclusive.

If the student is under 24, they are a Dependent student until proven otherwise. In order to force independency, the state requires the student earn $11,811(or more) in the 12 months prior to the start of the term for which they are reclassifying. They must prove this with paystubs and W-2s. If they do not earn this amount, they cannot reclassify as Independent and must claim through a parent.

Independent Students

A student who meets any of the following criteria shall be classified as an independent student for the determination of residency for tuition purposes:

  • You are 24 years of age or older prior to the Proof of Florida Residency Deadline listed in the Academic Calendar, the student.
  • You are married, the student. (Copy of marriage certificate required.)
  • You have children who receive more than half of their support from you, the student.
  • You have other dependents who live with and receive more than half of their support from you, the student.
  • You are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces or is currently serving on active duty in the United States Armed Forces or National Guard or Reserves for purposes other than training, the student.
  • At any time since the student turned age 13, where both of the student’s parents are deceased, or the student is or was (until age 18) one of the following:
    • a ward/dependent of the court or
    • in foster care.
  • The student is determined an unaccompanied homeless youth by a school district homeless liaison, or by a staff member of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.
  • The student is working on a master’s or doctoral degree during the term for which residency status is sought at a Florida institution.
  • A student who does not meet any of the criteria outlined above may be classified as an independent student only if he or she submits documentation that he or she provides fifty (50) percent or more of the cost of attendance for independent, in-state students as defined by the Office of Student Financial Assistance (exclusive of federal, state, and institutional aid or scholarships).

Dependent Students

All other students who do not meet the definition of an independent student shall be classified as dependent students for the determination of residency for tuition purposes. For a student to qualify as a dependent, or a parental adult other than the biological parent or legal guardian, the student must have resided continuously with the adult for the 3 years immediately prior to the student’s initial enrollment in an institution of higher education, during which time the adult exercised day-to-day care, supervision, and control of the student pursuant to 1009.21 (2) (b).


The claimant is the person demonstrating evidence of establishing and maintaining a permanent legal residence in Florida for a minimum of 12 months. For an independent student, the claimant will be the student. For a dependent student, the claimant will be an individual on whom the student is basing evidence of residency. This person may be a parent, legal guardian or spouse.


“Parent” means the natural or adoptive parent or legal guardian of a dependent.
“Parent” means either or both parents of a student, any guardian of a student, or any person in a parental relationship to a student.
“Parent” encompasses any person who is eligible to claim the person seeking classification as a dependent for the last five federal income tax years. According to Fla Stat 1009.21

Legal Guardian

A legal guardian is appointed by the Florida courts. If the claimant is the court-appointed legal guardian, the student must submit a copy of the court decree naming the claimant as the student’s guardian. A person other than a parent who claims the student as a dependent for income tax purposes is not considered the student’s legal guardian.