Foreign Exchange Students (those with a J-1 Visa)
Published December 2017
The Iowa Department of Education (Department) has received a lot of calls this fall from districts and programs that sponsor foreign exchange students; therefore, detailed below is a summary of what you need to know about educating these students.
- A district does not have to enroll a foreign exchange student. Pursuant to Iowa Code sections 282.1 and 282.6, a district must provide a free appropriate public education to all “actual residents between the ages of 5 and 21 years” who have not met graduation requirements. Foreign exchange students (those with a J-1 Visa) are NOT Iowa residents. They are not in Iowa to make a permanent home, and there is no special exemption in the law making them residents for school purposes. In addition, some of these young folks have already graduated from a high school back home. A district may have board policy that defines foreign exchange students as “residing temporarily in the district” and as, therefore, eligible for a free education if they have not already met graduation requirements elsewhere and do not have F-1 visa status (a non-exchange visa).
- A district that accepts foreign exchange students may charge tuition. Because they are not Iowa residents, you may charge tuition as a condition of enrollment, and you are required by federal law to charge tuition for those few nonexchange foreign students who hold an F-1 visa. Also, if a student has graduated already, you must charge tuition before s/he may attend your district.
- Do not include foreign exchange students in your enrollment count. As you may remember, the Department proposed legislation at one time that would have allowed districts to count J-1 visa-holders (which is the majority of foreign exchange students) on their certified enrollments, but the bill did not come out of committee. Thus, you may not count any foreign exchange students.
- Communicate with the sponsors of these programs. Some districts set a limit as to the number of foreign exchange students they will accept, which is perfectly fine. Just make certain to communicate your decisions in advance to sponsors of foreign exchange students. Let them know if you will enroll such students, if you plan to charge tuition to those who have not yet graduated, and how (if you have a limit) students will be selected and if there is a deadline in your district for enrollment of foreign exchange students. This will go a long way in avoiding hard feelings.
- Do not confuse foreign exchange students with non-citizen residents. If you have families residing in your district who are not U.S. citizens, you must provide a free education to the school age children of those families. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that it does not matter whether the families are in your district legally or otherwise. Children living with their families in your district are entitled to FAPE. The only inquiry you may make is whether their residence is within your district’s boundaries. If these families are migratory, you still must provide a free education to their school age children because they do not have a residence elsewhere; therefore, they meet the statutory definition of being residents of your district.
- Athletic Eligibility. Foreign exchange students (those with J-1 visas) shall have immediate eligibility to participate “unless undue influence was exerted to place the child for primarily athletic purposes.” However, those non-exchange students with an F-1 visa must sit out for 90 days. If you have other questions on foreign exchange students or VISAS, here is FAQs on Non-Immigrant Foreign Students. For questions on non-immigrants students, here is an article in legal on Education of Nonimmigrant Children.
If you have other questions on foreign exchange students or VISAS, here is FAQs on Non-Immigrant Foreign Students. For questions on non-immigrants students, here is an article in legal on Education of Immigrant Children.