Gov. Deval Patrick has instructed state colleges and universities to allow some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates to attend state colleges and universities.

In a letter sent Monday to the Board of Higher Education, Patrick said immigrants who obtain a work permit through a new federal program instituted by President Barack Obama would be eligible to pay the lower rates. Those rates cut in half the annual tuition to attend the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, for instance.

The governor told reporters the directive is in line with an existing state policy that allows people with work permits and valid Massachusetts residency to qualify for in-state tuition.

State House Republican leader Bradley Jones, an opponent of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, criticized Patrick for implementing the program without legislative approval.