Transferring Schools in/to the UAE - The Rules

Transferring Schools in/to the UAE - The Rules
By David Westley
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LET'S GO is frequently asked about the rules regarding switching and transferring to schools within the UAE. Here our Head of Consultancy, Lyn Soppelsa cuts through the complexities to deliver a simple guide as to how, where and when you can do so.


The rules for admission and transfer

Children attending school in the UAE must all be registered with the Ministry of Education (KHDA in Dubai) from the age of 5 years.

Required: Residence visa, Birth certificate, Sponsor’s passport and visa copy, Medical records, Transfer certificate (if coming from overseas or another Emirate)

The "Transfer Certificate" confirms the child’s details, school attended, dates attended and last school grade.  It must be written on letter headed paper, signed by the School Principal and stamped.

Children coming from USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand do not require attestation of the Transfer Certificate.

For children coming from all other countries, the Transfer Certificate must be translated into Arabic and/or English, attested by the relevant Ministry of Education in the home country and by the UAE Embassy there and then subsequently attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dubai.

* If there is a problem with providing a residence visa, children may still attend school, but will be classified as an “observer”.  Parents will need to complete a form which is submitted to the Ministry and will pay a “fine” (AED 10 per month), until the residence visa is submitted.  Not all schools will accept this arrangement and require the residence visa to be in place before the child commences school.


Deadlines for registration and transfer dates

The Ministry applies different rules for registration and transfer from one school to another, one curriculum to another and one Emirate to another.

These are the last dates that the schools have to prepare paperwork for; therefore most schools will not accept changes more than one month prior to the deadline.

Registration deadline – schools starting in September Mid- November  (date varies by a few days each year)
Transfer from same curriculum school to same curriculum school within the  same Emirate (i.e. British to British) End of January
Transfer from one curriculum to another within the Emirate  – both schools starting in  September Mid - November
Transfer from one Emirate to another (requires  transfer certificate) to same curriculum school End of January 
Transfer to UAE from UK/US  curriculum school overseas to same UK/US curriculum school in UAE 1st May(but rarely accepted by US schools after start of semester 2)
Transfer to UAE  from overseas school – different curriculum** Only at start of school year with November deadline (except from Southern Hemisphere schools)


For Asian schools, where the school year starts in April, there are similar rules and registration requirements, but different deadlines.


Indian Curriculum Guidelines

Admission deadlines

(a) 15th June is the last date for admissions for students coming from other Boards,i.e.  American, IGCSE etc.,
(b) 31st October is the last date for admissions for students coming from within the UAE from any Indian Board.
(c) 8th February is the last date for admissions for students coming from any Indian Board outside of the country.

Transfer certificate requirements

(A) For students coming from Emirates other than Dubai, the Transfer/Leaving Certificate should be attested by the Ministry of Education of that emirate. For Dubai, responsibility lies with the KHDA.

N. B.: The gap between the date of leaving and the date of joining should not be more than TWO WEEKS for (A).

(B) For students coming from OMAN, the Transfer/School Leaving Certificate should be attested by the Indian Embassy/Foreign Affairs Ministry and the UAE Embassy located in that country.

(C) For students coming from Gulf countries other than OMAN, the Transfer/School Leaving Certificate should be attested by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by the UAE Embassy located in that country.

(D) For students coming from INDIA: The Transfer Certificate/School Leaving Certificate has to be attested by the Education Officer of the Zone/District/Area, from where the Transfer Certificate/School Leaving Certificate has been obtained.  The seal and signature of the Education Officer has to be verified by the Indian Consulate in Dubai and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Sharjah – UAE.

N. B.: The gap between the date of leaving and the date of joining, should not be more than ONE MONTH for (B, C, D).


Curriculum changes – grade entry

The Ministry is very inflexible in regard to accepting compatibility of grading structures.  It is rarely possible for a child coming from the US/International 12 grade structure to transfer to the equivalent by age year group in the UK structure (up to year 13 – therefore, one year group higher) – there are a limited number of schools where equivalence is accepted.  Generally, the child will have to repeat one full year.

Children wishing to transfer from Asian curriculum schools (with an April school year start date) to UK/US/International schools, will only be able to do so in September and will have to repeat the same year group that they commenced in April – thus repeating one term.


Southern Hemisphere schools

Children coming to the UAE from Australia and South Africa, where the school year runs from January to December are dealt with differently depending on when they plan to start school in the UAE and based on the individual decision of the school.  Generally, if they are starting school in September or April, they will normally have to enter and repeat part of the same year, since they have not completed the school year at home. They may be able to join the next year group in the UAE provided that the school administers an Entrance exam which is provided to the Ministry to support the application.

Children attempting to start school in January, who completed the school year at home in December, will generally be admitted to the next year, provided that they complete an Entrance Exam which shows they are able to deal with the curriculum – although they will have missed the first term of the year in the UAE.


Year 11 and Year 13 entries – UK curriculum/grade 12 entry – IB curriculum

It is almost impossible to get acceptance for students into Year 11 and Year 13 at UK Curriculum schools, because they will be joining part way through a programme of 2 year study for external examinations (GCSE and A Levels).  Although the curriculum is likely to be the same, schools are free to choose the organisation of the programme and the risk is too great that students will miss sections of the course if they transfer.

Transfer from one IB curriculum school to another is theoretically possible at the start of grade 12, provided that the EXACT same choice of subjects is available.


Leaving School in Dubai

Many countries have a similar requirement to the UAE in regard to provision of a transfer certificate when children move on from the UAE.  The transfer certificate is provided by the Ministry of Education/KHDA and confirms the same information as required when coming to the UAE.

If a child is transferring between Emirates, the certificate does not have to be attested by the MOE and can be obtained directly from the school.  For all other countries, the Ministry’s stamp is required.  In general, schools will not provide a transfer certificate if there are any outstanding fees.


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