Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees and other New Americans

Welcome to the U.S. Department of Education's page dedicated to providing information and resources for immigrant, refugee, asylee students and families.

Importance of Integration

Currently, there are over 4.7 million foreign born individuals enrolled in pre-kindergarten to postsecondary education, representing 6% of the total student population. Another 20 million students are the children of foreign born parents.

As a nation of immigrants, America has benefited from the vitality and enthusiasm brought to its shores by those seeking a better life. Successful immigrant and refugee integration efforts build the capacity of schools and early learning programs, communities, organizations, and other stakeholders to support the civic, linguistic, and economic integration of immigrants.i

The programmatic efforts of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) support a number of immigrant populations, including immigrant children (e.g., unaccompanied youth) and the children of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) children and youth, immigrant families, adult immigrants (e.g. refugees, asylees), foreign-born professionals, migrant students, teachers of English learners and foreign languages, and receiving communities. ED’s initiatives geared toward learners, teachers, schools and communities support all three pillars of immigrant integration: civic, economic, and linguistic integration.

i Original analysis based on data from 2013 American Community Survey (ACS). Data can be found here.

K-12 Students

Young people in this country – regardless of wealth, home language, zip code, sex, race, disability, actual or perceived immigration status – should have the chance to learn and achieve. Education must provide a path to a striving middle class for all who are willing to work hard.

More on K-12 Educational Resources

  • Plyler v. Doe – This joint guidance letter from ED and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) describes the obligations of states and school districts under Federal law to provide all children – regardless of actual or perceived immigration status – with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level.

    The Joint Guidance Letter is also available in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. [PDF]

    The Fact Sheet containing information on the rights of all children to enroll in school is also available in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.[PDF]

    The Question and Answer Document for states, school districts and parents is also available in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. [PDF]

  • Services for Unaccompanied Children – Following the mission of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is founded on the belief that new arriving populations have a better chance to maximize their potential when given opportunities, ORR/ Division of Children's Services/Unaccompanied Alien Children's program provides unaccompanied alien children (UAC) with a safe and appropriate environment as well as client-focused highest quality of care to maximize the UAC’s opportunities for success both while in care, and upon discharge from the program to sponsors in the U.S. or return to home country, to assist them in becoming integrated members of our global society. Additional information can be found here.

    Under the law, HHS is required to care for UAC apprehended while crossing the border. While in care at an HHS shelter, such children are not enrolled in local schools but do receive educational services and other care from providers who run HHS shelters. Recently arrived UAC are later released from federal custody to an appropriate sponsor – usually a parent, relative, or family friend – who can safely and appropriately care for them while their immigration cases proceed. While residing with a sponsor, these children have the right under federal law to enroll in public elementary and secondary schools in their local communities and to benefit from educational services, as do all children in the U.S.

  • New Immigrant Guide– This resource guide from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides basic information for new immigrants, including information about education, childcare, and schools. The guide is available in 14 languages.

  • English Language Learner Resources –Federal laws prohibit denial of equal access to education because of a student's limited proficiency in English. In 2015, ED and DOJ released joint guidance reminding states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. In addition to the guidance, the Departments also released additional tools and resources to help schools in serving English learner students and parents with limited English proficiency:

    • A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools' obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.
    • A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools' obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
    • A toolkit to help school districts serve English learner students, prepared by ED's Office of English Language Acquisition. This series of chapters is designed to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students.

  • McKinney-Vento Act –The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento) delineates educational rights and support for children and youth experiencing homelessness, including guaranteeing immediate access to a free, appropriate public education. Federal law identifies a number of living arrangements such as sharing the housing of others, in which inhabitants would qualify for purposes of the Act. Under McKinney-Vento, school districts must appoint a local liaison to ensure, among other things, that (1) children and youth eligible under McKinney Vento are identified; (2) that they immediately enroll in, and have a full and equal opportunity to succeed in, the schools of the district; and (3) they receive educational services for which they are eligible, and referrals to health care services, dental services, mental health services, and other appropriate services.

    Unaccompanied children who are in shelters under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would not be eligible for McKinney-Vento services, but children who are released to live with a sponsor may be eligible on a case-by-case basis under the law's broad definition, which includes youth who are living with family members in "doubled-up" housing, i.e., sharing the housing of other persons due to economic hardship or a similar reason. School district staff should refer children they believe may qualify to the district's local liaison for further consideration and a determination of McKinney-Vento eligibility. If you cannot locate the designated homeless liaison, you can contact your State Coordinator for Homeless Education. The State Coordinator can also advise parents or sponsors regarding enrollment disputes with a school district. More information about McKinney-Vento eligibility is available here and more information about the rights and services available under the McKinney-Vento Act is available here.

  • National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA) – This website provides an overview of NCELA, including federal grants, data and demographics concerning ELs, professional development, promising practices, and more.

Higher Education Students

Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require education and training beyond a high school diploma.

More on Higher Education Resources

  • Funding Your Education [PDF, 1.4MB] – This guide to Federal Student Aid covers preparing to pay for college, applying for aid, and repaying a loan.

  • Qualifying for Student Aid – Many non-U.S. citizens qualify for federal student aid. Access this website to learn more about the eligibility criteria for that aid.

  • Questions and Answers about Financial Aid and Undocumented Students [PDF, 326KB] – This questions and answers (Q&As) document provides information about student financial aid for undocumented students as well as guidance for a specific subgroup of undocumented students who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Q&As include general information, information about eligibility for financial aid, and information about completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

  • WHIEEH Financial Aid Guide for Graduates – The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) created the ¡Gradúate! Financial Aid Guide to Success (Guide) to help students and families navigate the college application process. The Guide, available in both English and Spanish, provides recommended steps for the college enrollment process, helpful tips on filling out the FAFSA and key financial aid resources available to better support Hispanics, including DACA and non U.S. citizen students, in their efforts to access a postsecondary education.

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students

    On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several key guidelines, including educational guidelines, may request consideration of deferred immigration enforcement action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. Individuals who are granted deferred action would then be eligible for work authorization. Deferred action does not provide an individual with lawful status, but instead is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion.

    More on DACA Educational Resources

    • General information about DACA – This DHS website provides an overview of DACA, along with guidelines, requirements and restrictions, and information about renewal.

    • Frequently Asked Questions about DACA – This DHS website answers the most common questions about DACA, including information about education requirements, evidence, decisions, and renewals.

      Frequently Asked Questions are also available in Spanish, Korean [PDF, 279KB], and Tagalog [PDF, 135KB].

    • Letter for Educators [PDF, 118KB] – Educators can play an important role in sharing information about DACA with students and families. This letter provides information and resources to help educators understand DACA and offer support to undocumented students who choose to request consideration for DACA or renewal of DACA.

    • Questions and Answers about Education Records [PDF, 266KB] – Education records are kept by schools about students who are or were enrolled in the school. Education records can be used when students apply for college or entry into other types of education programs such as career training programs, as well as when students request DACA. This Question and Answer document provides answers to frequently asked questions about education records, including types of records, what they contain, how to locate them, and how to request them.

    • DACA students' right to work [PDF, 57KB] – This guidance document from DOJ provides basic information regarding DACA students' right to work, answers to frequently asked questions, and contact information. The document is also available in Spanish [PDF, 98KB].

    • DACA Toolkit: Resources for Community Partners – This toolkit is designed to help students, families, and community advocates understand and navigate the DACA process.

    • Avoid Scams – This DHS website provides important information about avoiding immigration scams and unauthorized practitioners of immigration services.

    Adult Students

    Adults should be able to acquire the basic skills necessary to function in today's society so that they can obtain work or pursue further schooling and support their families.

    More on Adult Student Educational Resources

    • Adult Education and CTE programs: Adult education classes can help students improve literacy, mathematics, or English language skills, and prepare for work or enrollment in postsecondary education and training programs. Students considering requesting DACA may be able to establish that they are "currently in school" under the DACA guidelines by, among other things, providing evidence that they are enrolled in an education, literacy, or career training program that is publicly funded, administered by a non-profit organization, or is of demonstrated effectiveness. For programs that are publicly funded, this lookup tool will help students identify local adult education programs (including education and literacy programs) that receive public funding from the federal government.

    • Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS)–ED's Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) maintains an online, professional learning community and resource collection called LINCS. LINCS features topic area groups, including an Adult English Language Learners group that provides an opportunity for networking and information sharing activities among educators across the country.

    Migrant Students

    Migratory workers in the U.S. include those who move within states, between states, and between countries. Therefore, some, but not all migratory workers may be immigrants.

    The Office of Migrant Education (OME) aims to provide excellent leadership, technical assistance, and financial support to improve the educational opportunities and academic success of migrant children, youth, agricultural workers, fishers, and their families. Some immigrant students may be eligible to participate in OME's programs, provided they meet the program requirements and fit the definition of migratory children.

    More on Migrant Student Educational Resources

    • Migrant Education Program (MEP) – This website provides an overview of MEP, a program designed to help ensure that migratory children who move among the states are not penalized in any manner by disparities among states in curriculum, graduation requirements, or state academic content and student academic achievement standards.

    • High School Equivalency Program (HEP) – This website provides an overview of HEP, a program designed to help migrant and seasonal farm workers and members of their immediate families to obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma and to gain employment or begin postsecondary education or training.

    • College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) – This website provides an overview of CAMP, a program designed to assist migrant and seasonal farm workers and members of their immediate families to complete their first academic year of college. Limited follow-up services are provided to participants after their first year.

    • Migrant Students Records Exchange Initiative (MSIX) – This website describes MSIX, the technology that allows states to share health and educational information on migrant children. It includes background, objectives, contact information, and resources.

    Hispanic Students

    Hispanics are the largest and fastest‐growing minority group, and will represent 60 percent of our nation's population growth between 2005 and 2050.

    More on Hispanic Student Educational Resources

    Asian American and Pacific Islander Students

    The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is growing rapidly in the United States, and one in 10 of the 11 million undocumented individuals living in the U.S. is Asian or Pacific Islander.

    More on AAPI Educational Resources

    Additional Information and Resources
    • Office for Civil Rights – This website includes an overview of the Office for Civil Rights, which enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin (including lack of English proficiency), disability, sex and age, in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from ED.

      Also available in Spanish and other languages.

    • President Obama’s proposal on our immigration system – The president has called for changing the existing immigration system. This includes his proposals for border security, increased use of E-verify, increasing permanent residencies, and the effect of immigration on the economy.

    Notice of Language Assistance

    If you have difficulty understanding English, you may, free of charge, request language assistance services for this Department information by calling 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (TTY: 1-800-877-8339), or email us at: Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov.

    Aviso a personas con dominio limitado del idioma inglés: Si usted tiene alguna dificultad en entender el idioma inglés, puede, sin costo alguno, solicitar asistencia lingüística con respecto a esta información llamando al 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (TTY: 1-800-877-8339), o envíe un mensaje de correo electrónico a: Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov.

    給英語能力有限人士的通知: 如果您不懂英語, 或者使用英语有困难,您可以要求獲得向大眾提供的語言協助服務,幫助您理解教育部資訊。這些語言協助服務均可免費提供。如果您需要有關口譯或筆譯服務的詳細資訊,請致電 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (聽語障人士專線:1-800-877-8339),或電郵: Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov

    Thông báo dành cho những người có khả năng Anh ngữ hạn chế: Nếu quý vị gặp khó khăn trong việc hiểu Anh ngữ thì quý vị có thể yêu cầu các dịch vụ hỗ trợ ngôn ngữ cho các tin tức của Bộ dành cho công chúng. Các dịch vụ hỗ trợ ngôn ngữ này đều miễn phí. Nếu quý vị muốn biết thêm chi tiết về các dịch vụ phiên dịch hay thông dịch, xin vui lòng gọi số 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (TTY: 1-800-877-8339), hoặc email: Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov.

    영어 미숙자를 위한 공고: 영어를 이해하는 데 어려움이 있으신 경우, 교육부 정보 센터에 일반인 대상 언어 지원 서비스를 요청하실 수 있습니다. 이러한 언어 지원 서비스는 무료로 제공됩니다. 통역이나 번역 서비스에 대해 자세한 정보가 필요하신 경우, 전화번호 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) 또는 청각 장애인용 전화번호1-800-877-8339 또는 이메일주소 Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov 으로 연락하시기 바랍니다.

    Paunawa sa mga Taong Limitado ang Kaalaman sa English: Kung nahihirapan kayong makaintindi ng English, maaari kayong humingi ng tulong ukol dito sa inpormasyon ng Kagawaran mula sa nagbibigay ng serbisyo na pagtulong kaugnay ng wika. Ang serbisyo na pagtulong kaugnay ng wika ay libre. Kung kailangan ninyo ng dagdag na impormasyon tungkol sa mga serbisyo kaugnay ng pagpapaliwanag o pagsasalin, mangyari lamang tumawag sa 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (TTY: 1-800-877-8339), o mag-email sa: Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov.

    Уведомление для лиц с ограниченным знанием английского языка: Если вы испытываете трудности в понимании английского языка, вы можете попросить, чтобы вам предоставили перевод информации, которую Министерство Образования доводит до всеобщего сведения. Этот перевод предоставляется бесплатно. Если вы хотите получить более подробную информацию об услугах устного и письменного перевода, звоните по телефону 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (служба для слабослышащих: 1-800-877-8339), или отправьте сообщение по адресу: Ed.Language.Assistance@ed.gov.

    Last Modified: 08/20/2015