Free Education and Pre-K for Undocumented Immigrant Children Under Age 6

Free Education and Pre-K for Undocumented Immigrant Children Under Age 6

By Ralph Thomassaint Joseph | December 31, 2023 | Documented

By law, undocumented children have the same rights to attend public schools as U.S. Citizens and permanent residents. According to a 1982 Supreme Court decision (Pyler v. Doe), states cannot deny children of undocumented immigrants access to public education. Moreover, education is mandatory for all children in the United States.

The Pre-K program is an early childhood education available to children aged three to five before kindergarten. The Pre-K program fosters essential cognitive, social, and emotional skills through play-based exploration and interactive experiences.

Pre-K programs offer an environment where children develop language, literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills, enhancing their readiness for formal schooling. These programs are provided to children, regardless of their immigration status, in various settings, including public schools, community centers, and private institutions.

In New York, children aged 6 to 16 are required to attend school. If your kid is three years old, you can enroll them in 3-K programs.

EarlyLearn and 3-K programs for children under six years old

In New York, Children six weeks to two years old can enroll in EarlyLearn programs where they will have free or low-cost care and early childhood education for up to ten hours per day. Eligibility is based on families’ incomes and needs. To find the EarlyLearn program nearest to your address, visit here. For more information and questions, send an email to

Three-year-old children can enroll in 3-K programs where they will get full-day, high-quality early childhood education. However, 3-K seats are limited in New York. That is why you must accept by pre-registering for the program where your kid got an offer so you can secure the seat, even when you are waitlisted in another program. To enroll your kid, you need the following:

  • Two proofs of address
  • Proof of the child’s age: it can be a birth certificate, a passport, or a record of baptism
  • Your child’s immunization records: all children attending an NYC-regulated preschool or childcare program must receive flu shots.
  • Latest report card/transcript (if available)
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Accommodation Plan (if applicable and available)

You can enroll your child in 3-K programs any time throughout the year.

Children begin Pre-K programs in the calendar year they turn four. They don’t need to be toilet-trained to attend 3-K and pre-K programs. In addition, there are pre-K options that teach kids in two languages: English and a target language. These programs are designed for families whose home language is other than English.

For more information about Dual language programs, send an email to

NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEEC): These community-based organizations partnered with DOE to provide free pre-K. You can find on this map the NYCEEC near you. You are encouraged to consider NYCEEC if you’re receiving social services from the organization running the center or if your child currently has siblings attending the center.

District Elementary Schools: These are public elementary schools offering pre-K programs. You can consider it if your child has an older sibling already attending the school or if they are attending 3-K at the school.

Pre-K Centers: These centers are run by NYC Department of Education staff and only offer grades before kindergarten. You can consider a pre-K center for your child if you want them to attend a program with only young children or if they currently attend 3-K at the pre-K center. All pre-K programs serve children with disabilities.

Pre-K seat types, explained

School day: These free seats provide early care and education for 6 hours and 20 minutes daily during the school year.

Extended day and year: These seats are free or low-cost. They offer early care and education for 10 hours per day, year-round. Children are enrolled in extended day and year programs based on their family’s income and needs. To confirm your child’s eligibility for this seat, you must complete a Childcare application.

Head Start: These free seats offer early care and education for at least 8 hours per day during the school year and summer.

For updates about the admission process, you can fill out this form. Information is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and Haitian Creole.

For more information about admission or waitlists regarding the 3-K and Pre-K programs, call 311, 212-639-9675, or 718-935-2009. You can send an email to

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