Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

The US Education System – What You Need to Know


In addition to working out what might be the right visa for our adult clients, we also have to consider the educational and work needs of their children. Some visas such as the E2 Business Investor Visa and the L1 Intra Company Transferee visa do indeed convey work permits for spouses, but please note that these visas do not convey work permits for the children, even if these children are of work age. Indeed, once a child reaches 21, their ability to stay in the US will fall on them directly.

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The only way to convey work permission for the entire family is by way of a green card. Thus, if one parent obtains a green card then, in almost all cases, the entire family (spouse and children under 21) will automatically be granted green cards also. Therefore, it is very important when we consider the visa needs of the parents we also have to pay attention to the ages of their children to see if they are approaching work age, typically 16 and above.

For families with children over age 13, we must consider very carefully the green card opportunities for them. In many cases qualifying for a green card can take quite a few years, and the green card application process can also take years to process (in some cases), so the sooner we get things moving the better. We have to make sure that parents are able to convey green cards to their children before they reach the age of 21.

About US Schools

classroom-379214_960_720 copyFirst and foremost, all US students finish school at 18, not 16. Grades 11 and 12 (last two years of high school) are very important for a variety of reasons. In the US students are graded across all subjects, at least six subjects and their average grade is called a Grade Point Average or GPA. GPA scores typically range from 2.0 to 4.0.  A 4.0 GPA is exceptionally good. Honor Roll students must maintain a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Having a good GPA is the universal benchmark by which all students are graded for higher education, scholarships, grants and so forth.  In addition to having a good GPA score, students are also required to take SATs (Standardized Assessment Tests).  This is a national test that all students take. SAT scores can range up to 2400 points. Students can score well on these tests (or not) as a result of their training through years 11 and 12 at High School. Thus, when a student applies for college they have a set of common indicators of their GPA scores and their SAT score to rank the student’s ability.

test-986769_960_720In our experience, we have found that it’s really important that you get your older children in school for their junior year of high school so they can develop their GPA and get ready for the SATs. For example, if you’re coming from the UK where children may want to do A-levels up to age 18 then these have little value in the US as they cannot be converted into a US GPA. Similarly, having your child stay and complete GCSEs (in England) at 16 also has little value in completing a US education.

US university educations are very expensive, even for American families. Typically a university education can cost $30,000 per year over a four-year BA degree. In the UK, BA degrees are done over three years. For many professions, after completing a BA degree program students are still required to take on a second degree in order to specialize. It’s almost as if, in the US, the BA is treated as a general education certificate that must be followed by a further three years of specialization. For example, in the UK, it is possible to complete a law degree in three years. In the US, law is considered to be an advanced degree, therefore, cannot be taken until the student already has a BA degree in another subject.

writing-1170146_960_720Many American families have to adopt strategies to ameliorate these high fees. For example, let’s take a family from California: If the student goes to a state college within California then the college fees are drastically reduced, possibly under $10,000 per year because their parents have paid local state taxes. However, this option is only available to US Citizens and green card holders, thus not applicable to you. Nevertheless, even US students often elect to travel to other states to do their degree as part of the grand “college experience”. Some Americans see this as almost a birthright and a rite of passage.

Alternatively, American families and aliens can have their child go to a local community college. These colleges are not universities but can give a student 2 years worth of credits at a much lower cost than taking the same courses at a university. For example, a community college will cost the average student about $6K-$9K per year, and after two years the student can have enough credits to transfer to a four-year university, where they would start in year 3 and finish in year 4, potentially saving $60,000 in college expenses.

Because a university education is so expensive many families have saved for this since their children were very young, or will have to take out student loans in order to fund college, and the latter is only available to green card holders or US Citizens. For many families a university degree is something that some students only fully realize in their mid-twenties, and it is certainly not the norm for 18-year-olds to sail into a four-year university as it might be for the UK.


When dealing with this issue of education for children under 18 we hope you can see how important it is to get your children integrated into the American education system as quickly as possible, as there is really no time to lose if you’re serious about making the US your permanent home. There is also a time element in that we need to make sure that you can get your green card before any of them reach the age of 21, not to mention children between the ages of 16-21 who can’t wait to get some kind of job to support their lifestyle. None of this is possible without a green card, for the most part. We hope you found this article helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us so we can discuss any opportunity you may have.

Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
401 Wilshire Boulevard, 12th Floor,
Santa Monica,
California 90401
Tel: 310 496 4292

Everyday the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram provides a comprehensive range of US Immigration expertise. We also provide a free consultation for our prospective clients.

Please note that nothing contained in this website or link therefrom shall be regarded as providing legal advice. Please contact us directly for legal advice specific to your situation. Thank You.

Specializing in the E2 Visa, EB1 Green Card, L-1A Visa and O1 Visa and K1 Visa Marriage-Based Immigration. Attorney Chris M. Ingram is dedicated to providing the very best in US Immigration legal representation. Enjoy our website.

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