Parachute children

As children in the United States on student visas, parachute children experience immigration pressures and challenges similar to those of other child immigrants. They must adapt to a new land and learn how to cope in a different educational environment. In addition, however, they are also expected to survive, succeed, and seek educational opportunity in the United States while their parents are overseas.

During the last decades of the twentieth century, many affluent families in Asian nations such as the Philippines, India, Korea, Hong Kong, South Korea, SingaporeSingapore, Vietnam, and especially Taiwanese immigrants;parachute childrenTaiwan began sending their children to the United States to attend schools and live essentially on their own. The states to which these children have been most frequently sent are New York, Texas, Washington, and particularly California. Children as young as eight years old have been sent to the United States to live without parental supervision. In some cases, relatives or friends of the families have served as the children’s legal guardians. In other cases, boarding arrangements have been made with strangers, and in still other cases, older teenage children have been sent to live alone.Asian immigrants;parachute childrenParachute childrenEducation;parachute childrenChildren;parachute childrenAsian immigrants;parachute
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Parents who have sent their children to the United States have continued to support them financially but have not been physically present in their children’s daily lives. Parents send children to be educated in the United States and other countries for a variety of reasons. Many hope that access to foreign educational opportunities will provide greater future economic opportunities for the children and their families than they would have if the children were educated in their own countries. Developing English skills and improving the children’s chances of gaining American college educations are often considered to be great advantages.

In some cases, parents wish to help their children avoid rigorous educational entrance assessments or stringent military requirements in their homelands. Other parents believe that having their children overseas may improve their own chances of being accepted as immigrants in those countries. Parents who choose to have their children educated in the United States, while they themselves remain in their own countries typically believe that raising transnational families is in the best interests of their children’s futures.

Hard statistical data on so-called parachute children are scarce, but it is generally believed that most of these children sent to the United States are well supported financially. Because they are not directly supervised by their parents, many enjoy freedoms that go beyond what is typical for American children of the same ages. However, they also bear everyday responsibilities that their American counterparts rarely have. Typically lonely and homesick, parachute children generally focus their energies on their schoolwork and do well academically. However, their very independence also leaves them vulnerable. Many have been victims of crime, and some have been kidnapped.

In response to the growing numbers of young Foreign students;parachute childrenforeign students studying in public schools in the United States, federal immigration law was changed in 1996. The [a]Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act forbade international students from enrolling in public elementary and middle schools unless the schools were compensated for their educational costs. The law also limited attendance of foreign students in public high schools to one year. However, because the law has not been strictly enforced and does not apply to private schools, parachute children have continued to come to the United States.

Downturns in the American economy have affected parachute children much more than the legal changes. Many parachute children have faced financial hardships as their funding sources have been reduced, and some have returned to their homelands.Asian immigrants;parachute childrenParachute childrenEducation;parachute childrenChildren;parachute children

Further Reading

  • Lee, Jennifer, and Min Zhou, eds. Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity and Ethnicity. New York: Routledge, 2004.
  • Suarez-Orozco, Carol, Jennifer E. Lansford, Kirby Deater-Deckard, and Marc H. Bornstein, eds. Immigrant Families in Contemporary Society. New York: Guilford Press, 2007.
  • Zhou, Min. “Parachute Kids in Southern California: The Educational Experience of Chinese Children in Transitional Families.” Educational Policy 12, no. 6 (1998): 682-704.


Child immigrants

Chinese immigrants



Filipino immigrants

Foreign exchange students

Hong Kong immigrants

Japanese immigrants

Korean immigrants

Taiwanese immigrants