Residency Classification

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Overview
Requirements
How to Apply
Processing Your Application for Resident Status
Appeal Process
Duration and Benefit of Law
Special Provisions Affecting Some Classifications

OVERVIEW

This information is designed to be a quick reference for students who are interested in applying for resident tuition status at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you want more information about the issues discussed here, you should consult the North Carolina Residency Manual for tuition purposes. This manual is on reserve in the House Undergraduate Library, the Health Sciences Library, the Graduate School, and at any of the admissions offices on campus.

If you are not yet 18, other special rules may apply to you as a minor and you should consult the Office of Undergraduate Admissions for more information.

Please note that there is a difference between being a legal resident and being a legal resident for tuition purposes. A legal resident for tuition purposes is a student who has demonstrated that he or she has been a North Carolina legal resident for at least the twelve consecutive months immediately preceding the school term and intends to make North Carolina a permanent home rather than being in North Carolina solely to attend college.

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PURPOSE AND HISTORY OF LAW

Since it first became a state, North Carolina has held to the view that an educated citizenry is necessary to a democratic government and that the state, therefore, has an obligation to provide for the education of its people. North Carolina’s 1776 Constitution provided: “[A]ll useful learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more Universities.” Article IX, Section 9, of the present Constitution reads:

“The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of the University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”

While the Constitution provides for higher education free of expense as far as practicable, it clearly is not practicable for North Carolina to assume the expense of university education for all who might come to North Carolina from elsewhere for that purpose. Therefore, while North Carolina welcomes out-of-state students, like other states it considers the privilege of paying in-state tuition rates a taxpayer benefit and necessarily asks those who are not “people of the State” (not North Carolina legal residents) to assume a greater share of the current cost of their instruction by means of a higher tuition rate.

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ADMINISTRATIVE AUTHORITY

The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and the State Board of Community Colleges are jointly responsible for implementing the statute. These boards set up the State Residence Status Committee, which is composed of members selected from the institutions within the state’s University and Community College system.

This Committee has three functions:

  • It decides cases appealed from the universities and community colleges.
  • It recommends changes in the law or in the policies and procedures by which the law is administered.
  • It is a source of general advice and information on residence questions for the institutions.

The Board of Governors made the President of the University responsible for administering the law within the University system. The President delegated that responsibility to the Chancellors for the individual institutions.

The Chancellor at UNC-CH has established institutional rules of procedure with respect to residency matters and has delegated to the Residence Status Committee the function of deciding appeals from initial residence status classifications.

At the individual campus level, employees trained in the relevant laws and procedures make the intial residency classification at the admissions level and also evaluate residency applications of enrolled students. These individuals receive in-depth initial training, as well as yearly update training, on the laws and issues surrounding NC residency for tuition purposes and are able to evaluate the contents of an application and render a decision.

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REQUIREMENTS

Qualifications

Under North Carolina law, to qualify for in-state tuition for a given term you must prove:

  • that you established your legal residence (domicile) in North Carolina.
  • that you have maintained that domicile for at least twelve continuous months before the beginning of the term, and
  • that you were physically present in the state, and
  • that you intend to make North Carolina a permanent home indefinitely,
  • rather than being in North Carolina solely to attend college.

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DETERMINATION OF INTENT

Because it is difficult to determine directly someone’s intention to make North Carolina their home, residency classifiers must evaluate actions taken that may indicate this “domiciliary intent.” The Manual lists the following considerations which may be significant in determining this intent:

  • Do you live in your parents home?
  • Where are/were you employed?
  • Where did you register to vote?
  • Where did you vote?
  • Where have you served on jury duty?
  • What are your sources of financial support?
  • Where have you registered/licensed a car?
  • Where did you get your last driver’s license?
  • Where do you own a home or other real estate?
  • Where do you keep your personal property?
  • Where do you list personal property for taxation?
  • Where did you file state income tax returns?
  • Where do you spend your vacation time?
  • Where did you last attend high school?
  • Where did you live before enrolling in an institution of higher education?
  • Where do you maintain memberships in professional associations, unions, and similar organizations?

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PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE

Residency classifiers weigh all the evidence furnished in an application for residence status. The preponderance (or greater weight) of the evidence must support the establishment of North Carolina domicile twelve months before the beginning of the academic term (first day of classes) for which classification is requested. If the evidence shows a cluster of significant events occurring at about the same time (within the same week, for example), the classifier will start counting from that point to determine if the twelve-month requirement has been met.

If instead the evidence has gradually accumulated over time, the classifier must decide at what point a preponderance of the evidence shows intent to establish North Carolina domicile, and that is the date on which the clock will begin. If this date is after the first day of classes for the term specified on the application, the classifier will be unable to render an in-state decision for the term in question.

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APPLYING FOR NC RESIDENT STATUS

All residence applications are term-specific. That is, you must indicate for what term you wish the application to be considered. It is very important for you to fill out the residency application form completely and to respond to requests for additional information as quickly as possible. If you feel that your answers to the questions on the form don’t give an accurate picture of your case, please attach additional written explanations. If your answers are confusing or if the form is not filled out completely, the classifier will have to write to you for more information, which can delay the classification process considerably.

Some questions ask for information about your activities during a certain period of time (for example, one question asks you to list all places you have spent 7 consecutive days during the past three years). Be sure you give an answer that covers the whole time period. If things happened earlier which you think are relevant, you may include that information in your answer, too. For example, one question asks you to list every time you have obtained a driver’s license in the past 24 months. If you obtained an N.C. license 3 years ago and got a new one 2 months ago when you changed your address, it would be helpful if you gave both dates even though the first one was more than 24 months ago.

Be sure to answer the question about your parents’ address no matter how old you are. Under the statute the residence of the applicant’s parents is prima facie evidence of the applicant’s residence, and all the other facts in the case are assessed in relation to this starting point. Without this information about your parents’ residence, the classification process cannot begin.

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NEW APPLICANTS

For many students the residency classification process is simple and occurs at time of application for admission. If you were born in North Carolina and have lived in the state all your life, you will probably be one of many UNC-CH students who are almost automatically classified North Carolina residents. You will need to complete the short residency application as part of your application for admission. Only very clear cases, where the individual has at least a 5-year history in North Carolina, are classified on the basis of the two-page form. Be sure to keep a copy of your completed application.

If you came originally from another state, still have strong ties to another state, have lived in North Carolina only a short period of time, etc., the process can become more complicated and time-consuming because more information is necessary before a decision can be made. The admissions office to which you applied will send you a four-page-long residence application, which you should complete and return per their instructions. Return the long form no sooner than 90 days before the term for which you are seeking classification. Be sure to keep a copy of your completed application.

It is important to note that within the Graduate School, residency status is not a factor in admission consideration. There is currently no in-state vs. out-of-state admissions quota as in the undergraduate and some of the professional schools and the residence status of an applicant is not a part of the admission evaluation process. Your own personal funding requirements may, however, be impacted by the residency process since out-of-state tuition rates are higher than in-state rates.

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ENROLLED STUDENTS

Although you may be classifed out-of-state when you first enroll at UNC-CH, if you change your residence, you have the right to request re-classification once you feel you have satisfied the requirements for becoming a North Carolina legal resident for tuition purposes.

To begin the residency classification process you must fill out a four-page residence status application and give it to your school’s admissions office. Be sure to keep a copy for your own use.

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DECISION NOTIFICATION

A. If you file a two-page resident status application sheet with your admissions office, one of two things will happen:

  1. You will be classified a resident, OR
  2. Your admissions office will write and ask you to fill out a four-page residence status application.

B. After you turn in the four-page application to your admission office, you will receive a letter from them saying one of six things – that:

  1. They need more information on certain points in your application; OR
  2. They have classified you a non-resident for the term in question; OR
  3. They have classified you a resident for the term in question; OR
  4. At the request of the admissions office, the Chair of the Residence Status Committee, or his delegate, has reviewed your application and has requested that it be submitted to the Committee for further review and possible reclassification; OR
  5. While it appears you will be a resident-for-tuition-purposes by the beginning of the term in question, you have not yet been a resident for twelve months; OR
  6. While you appear to be a resident-for-tuition-purposes now, you have applied so far in advance of the term in question that they will not classify you yet.

The paragraphs below, numbered like the six above, tell you what to do in each case.

  1. If the admissions office asks for more information, it is in your best interest to supply it quickly and completely. You must supply the information within three weeks after you receive the request. If you do not respond within the specified time, you will continue to be classified non-resident for the term involved. When residence is a factor in an admissions decision, an applicant will be required to respond more quickly to requests for more information.
  2. If you are classified non-resident, you may appeal to the Residence Status Committee. You have fifteen working days from the time you receive the classification letter to file this appeal with your admissions office. The appeal must be in writing and must be signed by you. All you need say in the letter is that you appeal the admissions office’s classification decision to the Residence Status Committee.
  3. If you are classified a resident, you are likely to remain classified that way as long as you are continuously enrolled. But, in some circumstances, you will need to be classified again.
    • If you leave school and stay out for more than one term or need to be formally readmitted, when you apply for readmission, you will have to fill out a new resident status application.
    • If you change from one division of UNC-CH to another
    • When the University becomes aware of new facts about your status, it has the responsibility to ask for a review of your residency classification to see whether you are still classified correctly.

    NOTE:Every time you get your bill, the Cashier gives you a notice that says “Your current residential classification, for purposes of applicable tuition rates, is required to be changed if, since original establishment of your current classification, your state legal residence has changed. If you currently are classified as a resident for tuition purposes, it is your obligation to petition for a change in classification to that of a non-resident if you have reasonable basis for believing that a change in facts requires such a change in classification.” The notice also points out that “Failure to fulfill this obligation may result in appropriate disciplinary action including, but not necessarily limited to, cancellation of enrollment.” If this applies to you, you must fill out a new resident status application.

  4. If you are notified that your application has been referred to the Residence Status Committee for further review, you will be interested in section IV below, which outlines the hearing process.
  5. If you get a letter saying you have not yet been a legal resident for twelve months, to be classified as a resident, you will have to fill out another four-page form before the beginning of the term in question so you can be finally classified. You should file the new application with the admissions office by the date specified in that letter.
  6. If you get a letter saying that you have applied so far in advance of the term in question that you will not be classified yet, you will have to file another four-page form before the beginning of the term in question so that you can finally be classified. You should file the new application with the admissions office by the date specified in that letter.

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APPEAL PROCESS

If you are classified non-resident by the admissions office classifier, you may appeal the decision to the Residence Status Committee. This committee is made up of members of the University community, appointed by the Chancellor, whose work makes them familiar with and who receive extensive training in the residency process.

Appeals must be filed with the admissions office where the classification decision was made within fifteen working days of receipt of the classification letter. The appeal must be in writing and signed by you. (Copies, faxed letters, or emails are not acceptable.) All you need to say in the letter is that you wish to appeal the admissions office’s classification decision to the Residence Status Committee. Your file will be forwarded to the Residence Status Committee and you will then receive a letter or email notifying you of the date, time, and place of your meeting with the Committee.

If you have new supporting documents to show the Committee, be sure to bring copies of them with you. They may or may not be needed for the record.

Usually you will meet with a panel of three or four members of the Residence Status Committee. Before they meet with you they will review your application and any related documents. They will then ask you questions designed to complete a picture of your situation. You will also be given the opportunity to provide an additional statement or clarify points in your original application. The chair of the panel will record the discussion in notes, which will be read back for your agreement. The accuracy of the written record is critical since any subsequent appeal to the State Residence Committee will be based upon the written record. You should receive a decision notification letter from the chair of the Residence Status Committee within a week of the hearing.

If you are classified non-resident by the Residence Status Committee you may either reapply at a later date or term when you feel your circumstances have changed or you may appeal the decision to the State Residence Committee. You have ten days from receipt of the Residence Status Committee decision notification letter to file notice of appeal. To do so you need only send a simple, signed notice that you want to appeal. Grounds for appeal and instructions on how to file a notice of appeal are detailed in the Residence Status Committee decision notification letter. Once you file a notice of appeal you will receive a letter outlining instructions on how to complete the appeal process. The State Residence Committee does not hold hearings but will consider your appeal entirely on the written record.

If you are classified non-resident by the Residence Status Committee and the term for which you were applying has not yet ended, you may, instead of appealing, file a new application for the same term, which will be heard by the same panel that originally met with you. This should only be done in cases where you find, after the first meeting, that you failed to present important and significant facts to the Committee; otherwise it is a waste of time.

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DURATION AND BENEFIT OF LAW

Individuals classified as NC residents for tuition purposes are entitled to pay the in-state tuition rate. If you are classified a resident you are likely to remain classified that way as long as you are continuously enrolled. But, in some circumstances such as those indicated below, you will need to be classified again. 

  • If you fail to enroll for one term (spring or fall), and subsequently require re-admission, you will have to fill out a new resident status application.
  • If the University becomes aware of new facts about your status, it has the responsibility to ask for a review of your residency classification to determine if your current classification is accurate.
  • If you change from one division of UNC-CH to another (for example, when you go from undergraduate school to medical school).

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SPECIAL PROVISIONS AFFECTING SOME RESIDENCY CLASSIFICATIONS

The Grace Period 
Re-establishment of Abandoned Domicile Within Twelve Months 
The Effect of Marriage on Domicile and the Spouse-Pair Provision 
Domicile of Non-U.S. Citizens

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THE GRACE PERIOD

According to North Carolina law, if a student has been classified as a resident for tuition purposes and loses his or her North Carolina domicile for some reason while enrolled at a North Carolina institution of higher education, the student can continue to pay the in-state tuition rate for a twelve-month grace period. The twelve months begin at the time the student lost his or her North Carolina domicile. If the grace period expires during the middle of a term, the student is allowed to pay the in-state tuition rate through the end of that term.

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RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF ABANDONED DOMICILE WITHIN TWELVE MONTHS

According to North Carolina law, if an individual was classified a resident for tuition purposes at a North Caroina institution of higher education at the time he or she left school or graduated, and if that person subsequently abandons North Carolina domicile and then re-establishes North Carolina domicile within twelve months of abandoning it, he or she may re-enroll at a North Carolina institution of higher education as a resident without having to meet the twelve months durational requirement. An individual may take advantage of this statutory provision only once in a lifetime.

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THE EFFECT OF MARRIAGE ON DOMICILE AND THE SPOUSE-PAIR PROVISION

If both spouses have established a North Carolina domicile and one spouse has been a domiciliary longer than the other, the member of the couple who has the shorter duration of domicile may borrow his or her spouse’s duration of domicile to meet the twelve months requirement. For example, if H and W are married and W has been a North Carolina domiciliary for twelve months but H has only been a domiciliary for one month, H can use W’s duration of domicile to meet the twelve months requirement. The two durations cannot be added together to meet the twelve months requirement so, if W had only been a domiciliary for eleven months, H would still be a month short.

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DOMICILE OF NON-U.S. CITIZENS

Certain visas and other immigration documents allow you to establish a domicile in the U.S. and thus in North Carolina (A, G, I, K, N, T, U, and V visas; permanent resident alien cards; conditional resident alien cards; and certain documents given to refugees or asylees, for example). Other visas do not allow you to establish domicile (B, C, D, F, J, M, P, Q, S, and TN visas, for example). Whether you can establish domicile with some visas (E, H, L.O) depends on your individual circumstances. If you have an immigration document that doesn’t allow you to establish domicile and you later get one that does allow you to do so, the time you spent in North Carolina under the old document will not count toward the twelve month requirement.

After you receive a new document, you must establish North Carolina domicile and wait twelve months. If you have applied for permanent resident alien status but it has not yet been granted, you are considered still to have the visa or document that you had before you applied for adjustment of status. This is true even if you have been granted a work permit. The application of U.S. immigration law to tuition residency decisions can be very complicated. Please consult your admissions office for more information.


For consultation concerning unique situations contact the admissions office through which you applied or residency@unc.edu.

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