The guardian is the legal representative of minors for the duration of their studies at overseas schools or universities until they become legal adults. A guardian is needed not only for obtaining a student visa and signing documents on behalf of the child, but also for the peace of mind of the parents: such a person will help the young traveler to settle in a new country and cope with difficult life situations.

Guardian services abroad

CountryAge of majorityTraditional type of guardianshipAverage cost of a guardian from an agency
UK16-18Agency / Friend4,000 USD/year
USA16-18School / Host family5,000 USD/year
Canada17-19Friend / Relativeupon request
Spain18Agency / School1,786 USD
France18Friend / Relative833 USD
Germany18Friend / Relative714 USD
Australia18Relative / Host familyupon request
China18Friend / Relativeupon request
Guardians can be found independently or through special agencies. The latter is widespread in the UK. The candidate, as a rule, must be a citizen or resident and speak the language of the country where the minor is going to study. Requirements for the guardian’s income are usually not imposed since he is the temporary legal representative of the child in the absence of the parents and does not have to be the provider. Each country may have its own nuances regarding the documentary registration of guardianship, but in all cases notarized consent from both parents will be required.

CountryFrom the parent/legal representativeFrom the guardian
United Kingdom Notarized consent The processing of documents is usually done by an agency.
USNotarized consent Varies depending on the state
CanadaCustodianship DeclarationCustodianship Declaration
SpainNotarized consent[0]
FranceNotarized consent
GermanyNotarized consentFreeform guardianship application statement[1]
AustraliaForm 157NForm 157N
ChinaNotarized consent Varies depending on the province

Who needs a guardian abroad?

In general, any minor who arrives in another country for the purpose of long-term studies requires a guardian. It can be both a schoolchild and an applicant under 18. For short-term educational trips, notarized parental consent is usually sufficient, which allows the child to travel unaccompanied[2]. If the school organizes the trip, the document is usually issued in the name of the teacher or other accompanying group.
It is important to keep in mind that the age of majority may differ in each specific country, but in any case, from this point on, a person will no longer need a guardian. General requirements regarding the presence of a guardian can be seen in the table:

Purpose of the tripDuration of the tripGuardian required
Tourismup to 90 daysno
Summer camp1-12 weeksno
Language coursesup to 6 weeksno
Language coursesfrom 6 weeksyes
Secondary education2-12 yearsyes
University preparation1-2 yearsyes
Higher education2-4 yearsyes

Why do you need a guardian abroad?

The major category of minors who need a guardian while studying abroad are teenagers aged 14-16. Moreover, they usually receive education in closed boarding schools, where qualified teachers work with them every day. Here comes the question: why does an independent person, that is one step away from becoming an adult, need additional supervision such as a guardian?

  • First of all, the guardian will meet the child at the airport upon arrival in the country, help him get to the place of study, check him into the dorm, study his schedule and deal with all organizational formalities at the beginning of the school year;
  • In the absence of parents, the guardian is the legal representative of the minor and has the right to sign the necessary documents: for example, a lease agreement, an application for opening an account at a local bank, a visa extension form, SIM card contract, etc.;
  • The guardian organizes the child's leisure time during school holidays when the school is closed. It can be various cultural events, trips, excursions. Also, if necessary, the guardian will find accommodation and a host family for the student for the vacation period, if during his studies he lived in the school residence;
  • Parents can entrust the guardian with the control of the child's pocket expenses. In this case, the guardian will regularly give the student a certain amount for personal expenses, and then provide the parents with a report;
  • The guardian can interact with the school management: receive reports on the student's progress and behavior, if necessary, attend parent-teacher meetings and transmit all information to parents. Some guardianship agencies also provide tutoring services;
  • In case of an emergency, the guardian must ensure that the child receives medical attention. If an urgent surgical or other serious medical intervention is required, the guardian has the right to give his written consent;
  • Finally, the guardian can be a friend and a person to whom the child can always turn with his problems when the parents are not around. It can be difficult to adapt to a new country even for adults, not to mention children.
In any case, the guardian is needed to be the child's legal representative when signing the documents. The final set of responsibilities of the guardian will vary depending on the terms of the contract. When working with a guardian agency, parents will know in advance the list of all services. If the family has chosen a guardian independently from among relatives or acquaintances, everything will depend on personal agreements.

Who can become a guardian of a child abroad?

The requirements for guardian status may vary from country to country. All possible options are listed below, but at the stage of visa processing, it is worth clarifying who you can nominate.

  • A relative. If you have a relative in the country where your child is going to study, you can appoint him as a guardian. In this case, the person must be a citizen of the country or have a residence permit. Some countries will also approve an adult relative with a student visa, such as Australia. It is worth paying attention to the degree of kinship: in some countries, a second cousin will suffice, but some will not accept the candidacy more distant than the uncle and aunt;
  • Friend or acquaintance. Most countries do not require the child and family to have a relationship with the guardian. Any acquaintances or old family friends can become the child’s guardians. Often, parents go in blind, and just ask people they know, without even knowing the potential guardians possible personally. This method is somewhat justified since most often a guardian is required only formally to get a visa. However, it is crucial to understand that the guardian is still legally bound and may be called to the school at any time. This is especially severe in the UK and Australia, where the nominee must confirm closeness with the family;
  • Host family. In the event that a child does not live a boarding, but in a host family, one of the host family members can become the guardian for the period of studies. This is convenient since the child will be under the supervision of his legal representative on a daily basis and in case of emergency, there will be no problems with the availability of a guardian;
  • School director. It is logical to choose this path if the child will study at a boarding school and spend all the time under the supervision of the staff of the educational institution. Educational institutions in the United States often suggest entrusting guardianship to school administration;
  • Guardian from the agency. The culture of guardianship agencies is especially strong in the UK, but they can be found in other countries as well. Here, parents will be helped to find a qualified specialist in working with children who understand the country's school educational system. You can even find one that speaks your native language, which will significantly simplify communication. The services of such agencies are not cheap, but you won’t be worried for the child’s safety: depending on the package chosen, the guardian will regularly visit the ward, monitor his progress, take him to the doctor, and much more;
  • One of the parents. Often on a student visa, a parent can travel abroad with a child. At the same time, the parent must have enough time and money to constantly be in the country of study. Naturally, in this case, there is no need to look for another candidate for the role of a guardian. At the same time, in some cases, the visa procedure still obliges the parent to fill out documents to confirm the acceptance of guardianship duties.

Choosing a guardian abroad

When choosing a guardian for a minor you need to consider many factors, especially if the candidate is not a relative or close friend. If you have no way of communicating with him personally, it is not superfluous to clarify this information:
  • Law-abiding. The guardian should not have a criminal record or other problems with the law. The Spanish Embassy even checks candidates in the sexual crimes registry;
  • Place of residence. It is best if the guardian lives with the child in the same city. For France, this is a mandatory requirement. So, if necessary, he can quickly get to school or a medical facility. It is also important to have a car;
  • Language. The guardian is always a resident in the country and speaks the local language at a native speaker level. If the student's parents do not speak this language at a sufficient level, this can lead to misunderstandings and problems in communication. In this case, you can try to find a guardian that speaks your native language. There are many such opportunities in the US and UK;
  • Age. The laws of most countries allow people from 18-25 years old to become guardians of foreign students. However, experienced agents recommend candidates who are 30-40 years old. Their life is more stable and they have more time to take care of the child;
  • Own children. In some countries, in order to become a guardian, you must already be the parent or legal representative of at least one child. Such a person knows from his own experience how to find an approach to children and how school education works.

Finding a guardian abroad

In the UK, the sphere of guardianship over international students is more developed than anywhere else in the world. Almost every school requires a student under 18 to have a guardian, although by law only children under 16 require one. There is a whole network of guardianship agencies in the country. The most reliable are those accredited by AEGIS. Here are just a few of them:
The cost of services, of course, is high, but the parent can be calm, as the child will be under the supervision of a professional.
Unlike the British secondary education system, international students under 18 in an American school generally do not need a guardian. The school and its director usually assume responsibility for solving all organizational issues. However, if you do need a guardian, you can find one through an agency such as Cogito World Education.
Canadian legislation requires all minors from abroad to have a local guardian at the time of residence in the country. In some provinces, the age of majority reaches 19, so sometimes a guardian may be needed not only for school children but also for university students. There are several agencies in Canada that help young foreigners find a guardian or a host family:
Germany also requires a guardian for foreigners to study in local schools. At the same time, experience shows that this issue is decisive only at the stage of obtaining a student visa, and all problems of the student are usually solved by the school administration. Therefore, parents wishing to send their children to Germany often look for a guardian among people they know.

As in the case of Germany, the presence of a guardian for a minor in France is important, first of all, for obtaining a visa. The French guardian must live in the same city as the child, and may also be required to vouch for the ward financially. The registration process requires a lot of paperwork, so you can ask for help in special organizations:
While studying in Spain, the student usually lives with a host family or is under the care of the headmaster in the case of a closed educational institution. The principal of a regular school can only act as a representative for a child aged 16 and over.
To apply for a study visa to Australia, you must fill out a special form, where a relative residing in the country will be indicated as a guardian. However, there are organizations that offer to select a guardian or host family from their base: for example, IDP.
For a minor to study in China, parents must find a guardian registered in the same city where the educational institution is located. OU LU / WECO can help with the search of potential candidates.