North Carolina Residency Determination Service (RDS) is used to determine whether you qualify for in-state or out-of-state tuition. When completing the NC Residency Determination Application, please read and answer all the questions carefully.

Application for North Carolina Residency

This service enables you to use one residency determination for admissions applications to multiple North Carolina public colleges and universities and to demonstrate residency for state aid programs consideration at all public and private NC colleges and universities.

  • While completing the admissions application through CFNC, the system will direct you seamlessly into RDS. If you’re not using CFNC, there is a simple link to RDS on the college admission application.
  • To enhance consistency and accuracy of the determination, RDS asks the fewest questions possible to reach a “yes” result while assessing the most options possible before saying “no.”
  • Once you have completed the RDS application, you will receive a Residency Certification Number (RCN).
  • RDS will inform you of your residency status immediately upon completion of the online application. In addition to the residency determination status, you will receive a summary of the data you entered. If it is decided that you are a non-resident, you will receive a clear description of why this was determined.

For tips on completely your residency request, check out our Tip Guide.

Residency Certification Number (RCN)

The Residency Certification Number (RCN) is a unique identifier that RDS assigns to you and provides confirmation that you have completed the residency determination process. The RCN is unique to you and may be used by a campus to request data concerning your residency determination. The RCN allows RDS to share any existing “active” record for you with a school and allows RDS to know that an old record has expired and is now inactive. If the RDS record is inactive, you must seek a new determination from RDS. The school can download the resulting data based on your RCN. If you seek reconsideration or use RDS again, the RCN remains the same indefinitely.

Complete the North Carolina Residency Application on the RDS website.

Residency FAQ

All curriculum undergraduate students applying for admission, re-admission, or transfer to a state school will be expected to use RDS. If you’re applying to or enrolled at a North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities (NCICU) institution and interested in applying for a North Carolina state grant, you will be required to complete RDS. If you’re a corporate or continuing education student, you are usually are exempt from this process.

No. Students who were admitted as residents and granted in-state tuition by any NC college will retain that residency status under the policy of “continuous enrollment.” Should you experience a “break” in continuous enrollment or transfer across systems (university to community college or vice versa), the school will require you to reapply for admission and, at that time, you must undergo an RDS residency determination.

Solely for purposes of the Residency Determination System (RDS), you are continuously enrolled at a North Carolina higher education institution if you are consecutively enrolled at the same North Carolina higher education institution in fall and spring semesters in courses or prerequisites creditable toward a degree, diploma, or certificate for which tuition is charged.

A break in enrollment occurs when you are not enrolled in two consecutive semesters (i.e., fall and spring or spring and fall). You are not required to be enrolled during the summer term(s) to maintain continuous enrollment for purposes of RDS. UNC, NCCCS, and NCICU have worked together to craft a common policy and explore how the policy might work within systems and across the systems. This policy will be communicated to the schools and is separate from RDS processes.

Normally, you should seek residency determination through RDS before or during the admissions process. The school can always admit a student before RDS is complete, but state law requires that the student be billed out-of-state tuition until they are determined to be a resident. RDS will provide an initial determination upon your completion of the RDS online interview, and that result is immediately presented to you. The resulting residency status is available to the school in near real time through the school’s administrative portal.

Yes, the RDS system will determine residency for minors. The vast majority of applications will be determined based on their parent(s) information. In a number of exceptional cases—emancipated minor, parents are deceased, five-year rule, etc.—the system will determine residency appropriately based on the minor’s particular circumstances.

Because RDS relies heavily on the ability to database match with state agencies in order to validate the data you enter into the RDS online interview, a unique identifier is critical to a successful determination. Students who cannot (or will not) provide a unique identifier will be initially classified as out-of-state and will need to request an appeal, which will require in-person submission of paper identification.

DACA students are undocumented and, by law, do not have capacity to be considered for residency. Students who identify themselves in a DACA status will be classified as out-of-state by RDS. Campuses may work with DACA students to identify any exceptions that may allow them to receive in-state tuition.

RDS relies on a complex determination of independence based on clearly documented lack of a parental relationship and the financial self-sufficiency of the individual. Without clear demonstration of both, the residency of a student, regardless of age, is dependent on the parent(s)’ information.

Continuous enrollment applies, and you do not need to reapply annually.

If a student identifies as a high school student seeking CCP admission to a community college, CFNC will not pass that student to the RDS system, since the student does not need a residency determination. The point at which the CCP student is graduated from high school and applies to become a college student, the student will need to apply for residency. If the student graduates from college at the same time as high school, the student will not need to apply for residency.

RDS is seeking clarification and simplification regarding residency for inmates. RDS will share the process once clarification is confirmed.

Students who need help with the online process will have these possible supports:

  • Campus-level assistance with data entry, either face-to-face or by telephone, fulfilling on-campus requirements for ADA compliance
  • The NC Residency Determination Service (RDS) call center at CFI via a statewide toll-free number

The NC Residency Determination Service (RDS) call center at CFI will provide comprehensive customer support for the students, families, and schools utilizing the RDS system. There will be a statewide toll-free number for students and families and a separate statewide toll-free number for schools.


An RCN is given to you after the submission of your first RDS residency determination. If you log in to RDS using username/email and password, you can print the RCN. If you forget the RCN, you can contact RDS and, with proper identification, receive a reminder of the RCN via email or text.

You may upload, fax, or mail information directly to RDS. If you are unable to upload required documentation during your interview session and have outstanding documentation, the deadline is 10 days from the date the interview is submitted. If you are unable to locate or upload the documentation within those 10 days, you can request an extension. If you pass the documentation deadline and have not submitted the required documentation, you will be classified as a nonresident and be expected to pay out-of-state tuition. You may then seek reconsideration if you still want to claim North Carolina residency.

A driver’s license is only one piece of data that RDS will collect in reaching its determination. Assessment of other collected information may allow you to be determined a resident, even without a driver’s license.

RDS will collect information to assist campuses in determining that an individual might be eligible for one of the “system-specific” exceptions. RDS will not inform the student directly of potential eligibility. Instead, RDS will provide exception codes in the RDS data which will identify possible exceptions for which that student might be eligible, based on information given in the RDS online interview. The school is ultimately responsible for granting these exceptions according to system policy and practice.

RDS will automatically update residency status on the Grants System—a grant cannot be funded without a student’s residency determination. Here are some basic points for how residency will work in the Grants System when RDS is deployed:

  • Students with existing determinations from schools (the student received a grant at that school in the last term) will be grandfathered going forward unless:
    • The student changes schools and does not receive a grant for two (non-summer) consecutive terms
  • New applicants for admission (before RDS is deployed) will receive a projected award if they indicate they are NC residents on their FAFSA (as they do currently), and the school will certify residency
  • New applicants for admission (after RDS is deployed) will need to have a residency determination from RDS—the Grants System will automatically reflect that determination
  • Students who are no longer grandfathered will need to have a residency determination from RDS and the Grants System will automatically reflect that determination
  • A school may certify a grant for a student who has a projected residency, but only a student who is grandfathered or who has a determination from RDS can receive a state grant
  • SEAA and RDS will work with the schools to develop accurate, transparent, and appropriate language about residency determination and its impact on the awarding of state grants

Yes. Once an RDS determination is complete, you may submit a reconsideration to correct data or report a change in circumstances, e.g.:

  • Active duty military changes or discharge from the military
  • Change in duration of living in NC
  • Marriage to an NC resident
  • Death of parent(s)
  • Change in immigration or US citizenship status
  • Change in financial self-sufficiency
  • Relocation to NC by individual and/or family


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