Information for Asylum Seekers about School in the U.S.

Last updated on April 14, 2023

Every child in the United States has the right to receive free public education regardless of their immigration status.

Can my child attend school if we are seeking asylum?

Yes! Every child in the United States has the right to receive free public education regardless of their immigration status. You and your child should NOT need to show proof of immigration status to enroll in public school.

However, you may need to show other information, such as proof of where you live or information about your child’s medical or school history. The school may also ask if you or your child have a Social Security number, but you do not need to show one. Read this flyer for more information.

What ages can children attend school for free?

In the United States, free public school starts around age 5 or 6, and ends around age 18.  In some locations, younger children may be able to access free preschool as well through a program called Head Start. There are also paid, private school options.

All children in the United States are required to attend some form of school until they reach a certain age. The exact age depends on the specific state, but is usually age 18.

Below is a summary of the general levels in the U.S education system until age 18:

  • Preschool (early childhood education): around ages 2-5
  • Elementary school (grades K-5): around ages 5-10
  • Middle school (grades 6-8): around ages 11-13
  • High school (grades 9-12): around ages 14-18

You can find more information about the U.S. education system on this webpage.

How can I find out more about how to enroll my child in school?

  • Enter your address on this website to find your local public school. You can call the school for more information about how to enroll your child.
  • Enter your address on this website to learn if there is a local Head Start center near you for children under age 5.
  • Search for community organizations in your area to ask for help.
  • Visit this website to find general resources about public education.

What are some education options for people over age 18?

  • High school diplomas: Some public high schools offer free programs for students older than 18 to receive a U.S. high school diploma. Some of these programs are specifically for students who have recently arrived in the United States. There are also exams for adults that are equivalent to a U.S. high school diploma. Check with a local organization or school to learn about the possibilities near you.
  • Colleges and universities: Some people decide to apply to college or university to continue their education. Generally, colleges and universities in the United States are expensive, and it can be difficult for students without immigration status to receive financial assistance. You can visit this website to learn more and find resources.
  • English classes: There are also many classes for people interested in learning or improving their English. Many of these programs are free and are offered through local libraries or community centers. You can also visit this website to find online classes.

To learn more about adult education options, visit this website.

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