How to register your child in a US School

A guide about school registration and available support for new students

US schools welcome new students coming from all over the world every day. But, have you ever wondered how schools support your child when they arrive at a new US school? New school registration is the start of many services provided to new students.

How to register your child in a US School

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to set up a welcoming environment for students from different countries or states who come to our local US schools. A new registration in a US school requires several documents and forms that families must submit to complete a registration. Below, I share various requirements about new school registration that every parent must understand and fulfill to register a child.

This post includes acceptable documentation required during school registration. In some cases, registration documents may vary depending on the school. The following information applies to public, private, and charter school registration. In addition, you will find several items to consider before you depart to the US from another country or move to a different US school.

When is a new school registration required?

New school registration is necessary when a family moves outside their current school feeder pattern. For example, in US schools, a feeder pattern determines which addresses or designated areas attend which school within a school district. In other words, a family address pre-determines a child’s school for elementary, middle, and high school.  

School registration is required whenever a family leaves a designated feeder pattern. Furthermore, a new registration may be necessary when a family moves to and from another city or state or from another country to the US. New school registrations may be done before the school year starts or anytime during the school year.

What if I want my child to attend a different school?

Some school districts offer the option to switch schools at a particular time during the school year. This process is called school choice when schools provide the opportunity to choose a school. School choice allows families to attend a different school each school year. However, to apply for school choice, families must follow a registration process that may only happen during a specific time each school year. For example, some families choose to attend charter schools in their area. Charter schools are free but also have their registration process, which may only happen during a specific time each school year.

What is school choice | How to apply

Registration Form Completion

The completion of the registration form involves the provision of personal and demographic information. Personal information provided during registration allows the school to identify a student in the school. It is important to understand that personal information, such as date of birth, is not shared with others outside of the school. This information is required for school purposes only. Additionally, a registration form asks for health-related information that may need to be addressed during school hours.

Each school registration will ask for a social security number as part of demographic information. Although schools ask for a social security number, families are not obligated to provide one to register. Therefore, this application part of the application may be left blank if a student has no social security number.

Every school registration asks for language-related information, which helps a school determine the services a student requires in school. In addition, a home language survey is a mandated form and sometimes a set of questions that all schools must ask to identify potential English language learners needing language services.

School registration forms are done in person or sometimes online. You can visit the school website to find out where and how to complete a new school registration. Every school website contains new student registrations.

What to Do Before You Move to the US

There are some things you can do once you decide to move or migrate to the United States. For example, there are important original documents that you will need to gather and bring with you. The school requires these original documents to complete the school registration process. These documents may be required to show guardianship, to prove parent and child identification, for grade-level placement, and to show a child’s health record.

Please note that although the school staff needs to see the original documents, they will not keep them; instead, they make copies.  Copies of the original documents are kept once the school personnel verifies the documentation. The pandemic changed how school registrations are done. However, documentation is still required even when registration is done online.

Required Documents for Registration


School staff must be able to verify and identify the adult registering a child in a school. To prove your identity, you must show a state identification card, a passport, or a guardian photo indentation. Additional court orders or guardianship documentation may be provided when a biological parent is not present during registration.

Besides adult identification, the school requires proof of identification for every registered child. Only an original birth certificate, an identification card, or a passport are acceptable documents for registration in most schools. An official document identifying you as the parent may fulfill this requirement. This documentation (birth certificate and passport) must reflect the child’s full name and the complete date of birth. 

School Report Card Record

Grade-level placement is often questioned and debatable during registration. Parents must prove prior grade level completion to ensure their child continues in the proper grade level. Before you move, you’ll want to request and bring copies of your child’s school record and report card.

Remember to request a copy of each child’s report card that’s moving with you. Kindergarten to 5th-grade students may only need to provide a copy of the most recent report card showing the school year’s progress. On the contrary, 6th to 12th-grade students should bring copies of report cards for each grade level completed above 5th grade. Having a copy of each prior grade level during school registration will ensure they are given fair credits for the classes taken. This also provides the new school an overview of your child’s academic abilities to determine current class-level placement.

In high school, this ensures students aren’t placed in classes they may have already taken.  Copies of the report cards will ensure appropriate grade-level placement. High school students in the US have a certain number of courses to take to obtain a high school diploma. Any courses taken in other US schools or outside the US will count as long as the classes are documented. 

Health and Immunizations

All schools in the US require students to have appropriate immunizations before they start school. Request a copy of your child’s vaccination record to bring with you for school registration. Immunization records are reviewed and approved by a school nurse, who determines if additional vaccines are necessary for registration.

What immunizations are required?

Below are the most common immunizations often required:

  • Diphtheria and Tetanus toxoid-containing vaccine and Pertussis vaccine (DTaP or Tdap)
  • Hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine (MMR)
  • Polio vaccine.
  • Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine.

In the US, school registration and attendance are required between the ages of 5 and 18. Therefore, school registration is necessary as soon as you settle into your new location. Some schools need parents to schedule an appointment to complete the registration. However, others may take a walk-in registration without an appointment. You must bring identification, school report card/records, and vaccinations mentioned in the prior section to register. The above list may vary depending on the school.


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Address Verification

You will also be required to provide address verification documents of where or who you live with. Proof of current address confirms and verifies that you live at the address you provide to ensure you register in the corresponding school. To prove the current address, you will be asked to provide a recent copy of a bill, such as an electric bill.

Other bills or documents showing the property address may be used when an electric bill is unavailable. For example, an affidavit may be necessary if you live in someone else’s home or apartment. Depending on your situation, ask the registering secretary what proof you’ll need to show of your new address location during school registration.

What happens after registration?

The first day of school can be a challenge for a new student in a US school; however, most schools have a set routine or plan to support new students during school. Below are some of the things schools may do to accommodate a new student.

Some schools pair the student with another student

Teachers may pair a student with another student who speaks the native language your child speaks. This makes the student feel welcomed and safer, knowing someone else can communicate with them in their native language. Teachers are often extra careful in ensuring the other student’s support but are not burdened by this responsibility.

Some schools provide an Interpreter

Some schools use an over-the-phone interpreter service for immediate communication. 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 unavailable.

Some schools use a 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. In addition, such resources may contain information about the school’s everyday routine, such as cafeteria, nurses, bathrooms, arrival and dismissal procedures, and class schedules. This document can often become a helpful guide for students throughout the day.

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

Most importantly, to learn more about your child’s school routine, attend the back-to-school night events to know what school will be like. Then, contact your school with questions or concerns. Interpreting services are often available to help parents communicate with schools and teachers.

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6 thoughts on “How to register your child in a US School”

  1. really a lot of useful information collected in one place. Can you also add the information if one should do the registration before the school starts and if there is some link etc?

  2. The information is really useful. But i have a question my kid has completed her 5 th grade in india. But her dob is on sep 30 . So when I, come down to US will she be put in 5 th grade or 6 th grade

    1. Hello and thank you for asking. This depends on the state you’ll be moving to and the month you’ll be registering. If your school year is different then the school in the US the school may need to consider the age and grade. For example, in my district if your school year ended in December we will plane the student in 5th grade to finish the school year in may and enter 6th grade next august. You can call or email the school your child will attend to ask specific questions before you move. The most import net thing so to bring a copy of the recent report card to the registration. Good luck!

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