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What are the rules for students who want to attend public elementary, middle or high school in the U.S.?"

UPDATED: January 25, 2012

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Congress enacted limitations on foreign students in F-1 immigration status who come to the U.S. to study in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools, effective November 30, 1996. These rules impact their attendance in certain public education programs, limit their attendance in public secondary schools (grades 9 through 12) to a maximum of 12 months; and require them to reimburse public secondary schools for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of education for the intended period of study.

The new provisions do not affect foreign students in any other immigration status, for example, J-1 exchange visitors, or dependents of foreign nationals in the United States on other non-immigrant visas. Likewise, the new provisions do not affect foreign students attending private schools or private training or language programs. F-1 students who wish to transfer from private schools or programs into public schools or programs must meet the new public school requirements.

F-1 students who were attending public schools or programs before the legislation took effect on November 30, 1996, can remain in school without penalty. However, if those students travel outside the United States, they have to meet the new requirements in order to return.

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