I thought it was $16k per year as you said, but did not see if this was per child.
It is per individual, adult or child. So technically, grandparents could donate up to $48k towards a child’s 529 plan, $16k to each parent and $16k to the child, then all three would contribute to the 529 plan. However, given that a child usually pays no taxes, any tax advantages would be wasted.
It is also possible for grandparents or non-family members as well to contribute to a 529 plan independent of gifts to others, though I believe OP mentioned the grands were prevented from doing so because they were not US citizens.
It is possible for a child to own their own 529 plan, but that usually does not happen because it would count against their eligibility for financial aid.
Here’s another useful article:
Who believes there is also a provision where 5 years worth of cash gifts can be made in a single year, with the amount gifted spread over 5 years for tax purposes…
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