In this guest post, financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz shares tips to fix common problems families encounter when using their FSA ID to sign the FAFSA electronically.
One of the most challenging aspects of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the FSA ID, which is used by students and parents to sign the FAFSA electronically. It is a more secure version of the FSA PIN, but families have found that it is also more difficult to create and use a FSA ID.
Here are the top tips for addressing problems people experience with the FSA ID.
- Students and parents should each create their own FSA IDs and not share them with each other. The FSA ID is an electronic signature, which is why an email address can be associated with only one FSA ID. Many problems with the FSA ID are caused by swapping student and parent information, such as names, date of birth or Social Security Numbers. In some cases, the wrong FSA ID is used to login to the FAFSA or to sign the form. These problems are less likely to occur if the student and parent each complete their own sections of the FAFSA.
- Typos are sometimes very hard to spot. An extra space or period in an email address may seem invisible. The letter O and number 0 are easy to confuse, as are the letters l and i and the number 1. Look for digit and character transpositions, insertions and deletions, especially doubled letters. Don’t swap the month and day part of the date of birth. The name, date of birth and Social Security Number must match the information on file with the Social Security Administration. Don’t substitute a nickname or middle name for a first name. If your last name doesn’t work, try using your maiden name.
- If a parent is undocumented, they cannot get a FSA ID and should use 000-00-0000 in place of a Social Security Number on the FAFSA. Do not substitute a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).
- When using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, the address associated with the FSA ID and the FAFSA must match the address listed on the taxpayer’s federal income tax return.
- Keep a copy of your FSA ID (username, email address and password) in a safe place, in case you forget your FSA ID. If you try to login unsuccessfully three times, it will lock your FSA ID. You must then unlock your FSA ID through the Edit My FSA ID tab and change the password before you can use your FSA ID. Otherwise, the FSA ID will immediately relock the next time you try to use it. If you unlock your FSA ID using the challenge questions, there will also be a 30-minute delay before you can use your FSA ID. If you unlock the FSA ID by email but do not receive the secure code in your inbox, check your junk mail folder.
- Call 1-800-557-7394 (TTY 1-800-730-8913) for help with FSA ID problems. You can also click on Help, then Contact Us and then on the LIVE HELP button on the FAFSA.ed.gov web site. Sending email to StudentAid@ed.gov is another option, but you should not include personal information in the email message. You can also try calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
If nothing else works, submit the FAFSA without using the FSA ID by printing, signing and mailing the signature page.