Foreign Exchange Student Frequently Asked Questions

Foreign Exchange Student (FES) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
updated 5/01/2017

State Waiver Criteria– General Information

Waiver-related FAQs are addressed by TEA’s Waiver Unit.  Please refer to the Foreign Exchange Student Waiver FAQ. 

District Information

1. Which foreign exchange student organizations are considered nationally recognized?

2. Can a district set its own procedures for admitting FES such as timelines for signing acceptance letters or last date to accept students?

3. Can a school district show preference to foreign exchange organizations?

4. What is a School Acceptance Form?

5. If a district has filed a waiver with TEA to limit the number of FES in the district, does the district have to admit an FES if the waiver is still being processed?

6. Does a district have to admit an FES if the district has reached its waiver limit?

7. Must a district accept an FES if the student exchange organization shows up at school with the student or if the host family of an FES shows up at the school to register the student without any prior contact with the school or district?

8. Can an FES transfer from one district to another?

9. How does a district evaluate the transcript of an FES and what credits should be awarded?

Visa Information

10. What is a J-1 Visa?

11. What is an F-1 Visa?

12. What is an I-20 form?

13. Can a foreign student attend school in Texas when he enters the country with a tourist visa?

PEIMS, Assessment, and Graduation

14. For PEIMS purposes, is an FES classified as alien or immigrant?

15. Is an FES student eligible for ADA?

16. Is a student who has an F-1 visa eligible for ADA?

17. Can an FES graduate from a Texas high school?

18. Does an FES have to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) if he/she does not wish to receive a Texas diploma?

19. Do FES students have to take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) assessment?

20. Can an FES graduate from a Texas high school if he/she has already graduated from high school in his country?

21. Can an FES participate in graduation ceremonies?

Rights and Services

22. What are the rights of an FES?

23. Is an FES eligible for English as a Second Language (ESL) services?

24. Is an FES eligible for Special Education and 504 services?


 

District Information

1. Which foreign exchange student organizations are considered nationally recognized?

Districts may refer to the Advisory List of International Educational Travel and Exchange Programs outlined by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). Visit www.csiet.org to obtain the latest information. The U.S. Department of State may sponsor special government programs for foreign students that would not necessarily be listed in the Advisory List, but the students would be eligible to attend Texas public schools.

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2. Can a district set its own procedures for admitting FES such as timelines for signing acceptance letters or last date to accept students?

A district may develop its own procedures as long as the procedures are not in violation of state or federal law. The U. S. Department of State Federal J-Visa regulations permit the placement of exchange students up to August 31 of each year, but a district may adopt timelines with an earlier deadline. However, district timelines must be reasonable and may not work adversely against the admittance of FES into Texas public schools. If the district applies for a waiver, the local requirements must be submitted with the waiver application.

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3. Can a school district show preference to foreign exchange organizations?

The Agency concurs with CSIET that “the school reserves the right to work with exchange organizations that have proved their commitment and responsiveness, but will also be open to new organizations that demonstrate a serious commitment to the school and community.” However, the district cannot reject an organization in order to deny admittance of foreign exchange students into the district. If the district applies for a waiver, the local requirements for selecting or excluding organizations must be submitted with the waiver application.

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4. What is a school acceptance form?

The school acceptance form is a form that a designated district official signs stating that it will accept the FES. The form is necessary for a student to be granted a J-1 visa.

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5. If a district has filed a waiver with TEA to limit the number of FES in the district, does the district have to admit an FES if the waiver is still being processed?

A district cannot deny admittance to an FES until the waiver process has been completed and the approved waiver is received by the district. After the district receives the approved waiver, the district must admit FES until it reaches its approved limit, not counting those FES that have already been admitted.

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6. Does a district have to admit an FES if the district has reached its waiver limit?

A district does not have to admit an FES into one of its schools under Section 25.001(b)(6) if the district has reached its waiver limit; however, if the student is residing in the district, the student may be entitled to admission under (b)(4) or another provision of Section 25.001.

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7. Must a district accept an FES if the student exchange organization shows up at school with the student or if the host family of an FES shows up at the school to register the student without any prior contact with the school or district?

An FES organization must follow protocol and have the district sign the School Acceptance Form for the FES prior to the student’s arrival in the district. However, if the student already resides in the district, the district must admit the student per Texas Education Code §25.001 (b)(6). If the district has reached its waiver limit, the student may be entitled to admission under (b)(4) or another provision of Section 25.001.

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8. Can an FES transfer from one district to another?

An FES may enroll in a different district if the student is entitled to admission in that district under Texas Education Code §25.001(b)(6), (b)(4), or another provision of Section 25.001.

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9. How does a district evaluate the transcript of an FES and what credits should be awarded?

Texas Administrative Code §74.26 (a) (2) Award of Credit states: “A school district must ensure that the records or transcripts of an out-of-state or out-of-country transfer student (including foreign exchange students) or a transfer student from a Texas nonpublic school are evaluated and that the student is placed in appropriate classes promptly. The district may use a variety of methods to verify the content of courses for which a transfer student has earned credit.”

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Visa Information

10. What is a J-1 Visa?

A J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign exchange students to study in the United States if they are sponsored by a nationally recognized foreign exchange organization. Exchange students on this visa may stay for one year. Federal immigration authorities determine visa requirements. Additional information regarding the J-1 Visa is provided by the U.S. Department of State at http://j1visa.state.gov/.

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11. What is an F-1 Visa?

An F-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign students to study in the United States on a full-time basis. These students are not sponsored by an exchange organization. This visa requires the school to complete an I-20 form (see following question). Additional information regarding F-1 Visa requirements is available from the U.S. Department of State at http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors.

F-1 information is also provided by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/.

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12. What is an I-20 form?

An I-20 form is a required document for students seeking an F-1 Visa. The I-20 form requires the school district to verify that the student has reimbursed the district for the full unsubsidized per capita cost of the student’s education.

The commissioner is required to provide guidance to districts regarding the amount they may charge a student who is required to pay tuition as a condition of holding a visa (TEC, §25.0031).  Districts and charter schools may not charge more than the commissioner-determined tuition without permission from the commissioner. A "Tuition Limits under the TEC, §25.0031" correspondence from the agency is issued at the beginning of the school year with tuition limit calculations for each school district. School finance reports, including tuition limits, can be generated by district at https://wfspcprdap1b16.tea.state.tx.us/Fsp/Reports/ReportSelection.aspx.

Students who are required, as a condition of obtaining or holding the appropriate United States (US) student visa, to pay tuition to a school district to cover the cost of their education must be coded as ineligible for ADA. See Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, Sections 3.2.1.5 and 3.2.1.6.

Additional federal requirements allowing a district to issue an I-20 form apply. Information for school districts pertaining to federal requirements and the F-1 visa and the I-20 form is provided at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/schools/.

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13. Can a foreign student attend school in Texas when he enters the country with a tourist visa?

A foreign student cannot attend Texas public schools on a full-time basis with a tourist visa as this would be in violation of his/her visa status. However, the school district cannot deny the student enrollment on the basis of his/her visa status. The student only has to demonstrate eligibility to enroll under a provision of TEC §25.001.

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PEIMS, Assessment, and Graduation

14. For PEIMS purposes, is an FES classified as alien or immigrant?

For PEIMS purposes, an FES is classified like any other student. See the next question for coding for funding purposes in PEIMS.

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15. Is an FES student eligible for ADA?

For ADA purposes, an FES is classified like any other student. 

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16. Is a student who has an F-1 visa eligible for ADA?

No.  As a condition of obtaining or holding the F-1 student visa, the student is required to pay tuition to a school district to cover the cost of their education.  This means that the student must be coded as ineligible for ADA. See Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, Sections 3.2.1.5 and 3.2.1.6.

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17. Can an FES graduate from a Texas high school?

An FES can graduate from a Texas high school as long as he/she completes the Texas graduation requirements including satisfactory performance on statewide assessments required by the TEC, Chapter 39, Subchapter B for graduation.

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18. Does an FES have to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) if he/she does not wish to receive a Texas diploma?

The district shall administer to an FES the state assessments for the grade level of the student’s placement, except that an FES may be excused from the exit-level testing requirements if the student waives in writing his or her intention to receive a Texas public high school diploma. See the TAKS Coordinator’s Manual.

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19. Do FES have to take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) assessment?

A foreign exchange student is required to take a STAAR end-of-course (EOC) assessment for a course in which he or she is enrolled, and the assessment must be scored. A field is provided to bubble if a student is a foreign exchange student. See the STAAR Coordinator’s Manual.

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20. Can an FES graduate from a Texas high school if he/she has already graduated from high school in his country?

Texas Education Code §42.003 (a) states that “students may attend Texas schools if they are 5 years of age or older and under 21 years of age on September 1 of the school year and have not graduated from high school.” If the student has graduated from high school in his home country, the student is not eligible to attend school in Texas. However, districts are cautioned to evaluate the transcripts carefully as some countries have different school systems which may indicate that the student has exited secondary school, but in reality the student has not graduated. Students exit secondary to enter the next tier of schooling. Whereas, the U.S. system has elementary, middle school/junior high, high school, another country could have elementary, secondary, preparatory. The district should evaluate the transcript based on equivalent education.

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21. Can an FES participate in graduation ceremonies?

An FES may participate in graduation ceremonies on the same basis as other district students, whether he/she is receiving a diploma or a certificate of completion as per TEC §28.025 (d).

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Rights and Services

22. What are the rights of an FES?

A foreign exchange student admitted into a Texas public school has the same rights and privileges as Texas students and is held accountable for his/her actions.

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23. Is an FES eligible for English as a Second Language (ESL) services?

Yes, upon initial enrollment the school district must initiate the Language Proficiency Assessment Committee (LPAC) Framework Process to any new student to Texas (including FES) to identify English language learners and recommend appropriate program placement.  For more information, please visit the Language Proficiency Assessment Committee (LPAC) Framework webpage at http://programs.esc20.net/default.aspx?name=lpac.framework.

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24. Is an FES eligible for Special Education and 504 services?

Yes, a district has an obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) to identify all students in the district who are students with disabilities and who have need for specially designed instruction in order to make progress in the general curriculum. For more information see 34 CFR §300.111(a)(1).

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