school registration

What You Need for School Registration in a US School

A guide about school registration and the supports give by schools to newly arrived English language learners

US schools welcome new students coming from all over the world every day. Have you ever wonder how schools support your child when he/she arrives at a new US school? A new school registration is the start of many services provided to new students.

In various occasions, I have had the opportunity to set up a welcoming environment for students that come from around the world to our schools. Below I share various requirements about school registration. you will find several things to consider before you depart or move to a different US school.

Before You Leave Your Country

Once you decide to migrate to a US school, there are important documents that you will need to gather to bring with you at all times. As a parent, you must make sure to bring several documents to a school registration. Such documents may include identification, grade reports, and vaccine records.

  • Identification: A birth certificate, an identification card, a passport, or an official document that identifies you as the parent. Additionally, you will need to gather and bring a birth certificate, passport, or an official document identifying the child’s name and date of birth. These types of documents are necessary to show your identity during school registration, or at any time, you may need to identify yourself.
  • School Report Card: Make sure to request and take a copy of the current report card for each of the children traveling with you. Students in grades Kindergarten to 5th grade may only need to provide a copy of the most recent report card. For example, students in grades 6th to 12th grade should request copies of all the report cards for each grade level completed. Copies of the report cards for a middle or high school registration ensures appropriate grade level placement. This also ensures he/she is given fair credits for the classes. At the high school level, this will also ensure that students are not required to take more classes than necessary.
  • Vaccinations: All schools in the US require students to have appropriate vaccines before school begins. You will also want to request a copy of your child’s vaccination record to bring with you for school registration. A school nurse will review your record to decide if additional vaccines are necessary for registration.


In the US, school registration and attendance are required or between the ages of 5 and 18. School registration is necessary as soon as you settle into your new location. Some schools require parents to schedule an appointment to complete the registration. However others may take a walk-in registration without an appointment. To register, you will need to bring identification, school report card/records, and vaccinations mentioned in the prior section.

Get a copy of a checklist with a list of items needed for registration.

Download using the form below

Additionally, you will also be required to provide proof of address you live in or who you are living with. Proof of address confirms and verifies that you are living in the address you provide to ensure you register in the corresponding school. Schools require a copy of an electric bill or other forms to prove your address.

Grade Level Placement

During registration, the school will most likely place your child in the grade level he/she was in the prior school.

  • Beginning of school year: If the student arrives at the beginning of the school year he/she registers in the next grade level. For example, if a student was starting 5th grade in their country then he/she is placed in 5th grade.
grade level chart
  • Middle of year registration: If a student leaves their country while in 2nd grade he/she registers in 2nd grade.
  • End of the school year: If a student leaves finishing 2nd grade he/she registers in 2nd grade for the remaining of the school year

Grade level placement also depends on the student’s age level. In some schools, a similar chart (shown here) may help determine grade level placement:

First Days of School – School supports

The first day of school can be challenging for a new student in a US school. Most schools will often have a routine or plan that they follow to support during the first days of school.

Below are some of what schools may do to help support your child as they enter a US school:

  1. Pair student with another student: pair the student with another student that speaks the native language your child speaks. This makes the student feels welcomed and safer, knowing that someone else can communicate with them in their native language. Teachers are often extra careful in making sure the other student is supportive but not burdened by this responsibility.
  2. Student shadow with Interpreter: some school districts coordinate an interpreter that can come and spend the day or a couple of hours with your child. During this time, the interpreter explains critical information. Including cafeteria rules, classroom routines, arrival, and dismissal information and school-related policies and safety precautions. I have seen this particular resource done well-making students feel welcomed and safe in a new school environment.
  3. Language Line Interpretation: Some schools use an interpreter that is provided via a translation service over the phone. Although a language line does not replace the personal touch of an in-person interpreter. An over the phone interpreter is better than no interpreter at all. Schools use the language line to explain immediate information when an in-person interpreter is not available.
  4. Welcome kit, picture book, or brochure: some schools use a translated welcome kit, picture book, or brochure. This helps to share important information with newcomer students. This resource may contain information about the school’s everyday routine. Such as cafeteria, nurse, bathroom, arrival and dismissal procedures, and class schedules. This resource is given to the student so that they can refer to the document as needed throughout the day.

The start of a new school can make a student feel a bit overwhelmed and nervous at the same time. Students are faced with new demands and may sometimes struggle to adjust and maneuver a new school system. Talk to your child to help reassure them on this journey.

Most importantly, is to be sure to attend the back to school night events to learn what school will be like for your child. Contact your school with questions or concerns. Interpreting services are often available to help parents communicate with schools and teachers.

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