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How Might a Visa Impact Enrollment in International Schools?


School applications are not all about academics and sometimes require a number of documents that have nothing to do with scholastics. Yet they must be submitted in order for a candidate to be considered for admission or to begin school.

One of these documents is a visa. International schools outside the US may require a copy of passport pages indicating that the student enters the country as a dependent on a parent’s work visa. Likely, this will need to be produced among the additional documents required when the candidate submits an application. In some cases, the visa will be required later, after the student is offered admission and before she can actually enroll in her new school. Sometimes a simple attestation of an appropriate visa is sufficient.

What is key is being aware that these documents are required and understanding the types of visas and permits the student may need and when in the admissions process they must be produced. This may include a work visa, work permit, or residency permit. Sometimes no work visa is required and the school only wants to see the student/parent passport pages with personal data. Whatever the case, families and their relocation teams need a comprehensive understanding of admissions documentation requirements should they need to seek the support of immigration advisors.


For example, in many cases, Mainland Chinese nationals are not permitted to attend international schools in China. This includes Chinese nationals who are working for international or American companies and have been living abroad. Even though their children have been educated in English or in the US, they are not eligible to attend international schools in Shanghai or Beijing, for example. They do not have the required immigration status.


Sometimes a work or residency permit may be required for a person relocating within a country. In one instance, Bennett worked with a family moving from Beijing to Shanghai and the situation was complicated by the fact that the employee needed a new work permit in order to reside and work in Shanghai. Timing was an issue because the school had already started, and the employee needed an immediate school placement for his child. The Shanghai work permit had not yet been issued and many schools will not accept a student until they can prove local residency. To avoid delays in the application process and the risk of losing the remaining school seat, the relocation team acted quickly. The Bennett education consultant alerted admissions about the permit delay and advocated for interim leniency.


The assignee’s immigration counsel organized temporary documentation, and collaboration between the school, the education consultant, and the immigration counsel yielded a solution, and the student was offered admission at the family’s preferred school.


Whether a corporation relies on education consultants or other members of a relocation team to provide education support to a relocating family, it is advisable to research visa, permit, or residency requirements at schools where a student hopes to enroll so as not to be surprised at the last moment.


In cases when hurdles are inevitable, it is important to set expectations appropriately, alerting the family and mobility team that admission is impossible without the required documentation while advocating with schools and urging patience and flexibility. Schools realize that these are uncertain times and they typically want to be helpful. The shared goal is to open a pathway for students to continue their schooling… don’t let a lack of documentation stand in the way.

Sara R. Schmidt is the Director of Business Development & Client Relations, Co-Director of Private Client Services and a Senior Education Consultant for Bennett International, based in Seattle. As a member of an internationally mobile family, Sara has navigated the school search process for her own children on three continents, finding the right fit for them in public, private and international schools. She is very familiar, therefore, with the anxieties and hurdles faced by parents relocating their children around the world, and her work is informed by her own extensive experience. Sara serves as Trustee and was President of the Bellevue Schools Foundation in Bellevue, WA, and is a member of Pacific Northwest Relocation Council and Bay Area Mobility Management. She holds a B.A. Ed., Summa Cum Laude, from Wheaton College and an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School and is also fluent in Spanish.


Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.


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