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College Admissions for U.S. Green Card Holders

College Admissions for U.S. Green Card Holders

Back in 2014, I did a post on the TOEFL for U.S. Green Card holders. That post has gotten a lot of responses from Magooshers! So I did a follow-up post of frequently asked questions about the TOEFL for American permanent residents. Magoosh TOEFL Blog readers have also asked a lot of general questions about university admissions for Green Card holders. In this post, we’ll take a look at frequently asked questions in the area.

What about exams other than the TOEFL? If I’m a U.S. permanent resident, do I no longer need to take the ACT, SAT, GMAT, GRE, etc…? Or will score requirements for these tests be different?

The answer to this dual question about exams other than the TOEFL is “no and no.” For undergraduate study, you’ll still need to take tests such as the ACT and SAT, and you’ll also still need to take the GRE or GMAT for graduate school. And the minimum scores for these exams won’t change once your residency status changes. These exams are not designed to test English as a second language. Instead they test college readiness in general. So all applicants face the same requirements for these tests.

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What are the best schools for me to apply to now that I have a U.S. Green Card?

The education that’s available to you does change when you get your Green Card. For one thing, having permanent residency makes you eligible for in-state tuition rates wherever you reside. In-state tuition can be 50% or even 75% cheaper than the tuition you’d pay if you enrolledย as an international student.

Additionally, community colleges and two year technical institutions will be more likely to accept you if you have a Green Card. Many of these smaller vocational schools are not very experienced with international admissions, and are much more willing to deal with an applicant who doesn’t need a student visa.

Very little changes, however, with top private schools. At schools such as Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and the like, your tuition costs and chances of acceptance don’t change at all when you become a permanent resident.. These schools treat international applicants and local Green Card holders the same.

My Green Card is pending, but I don’t have it yet. Should I wait until I get my U.S. permanent residency before I apply to universities?

I touched on this in my last post too, but my answer bears repeating: Yes, if a Green Card is on the way, you should wait until your permanent residency is processed before you try to start school in the United States. Applying for a student visa when your permanent residency visa is already in process doesn’t make sense and can create problems with immigration. Moreover, the student visa application process is time consuming and very expensive. If you can avoid applying to schools as an international student, you should. Also, as I just mentioned above, many more edcuational doors will be open to you once your adjustment of status comes through. Good things come to those who wait!

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44 Responses to College Admissions for U.S. Green Card Holders

  1. Lala October 23, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

    I am a US permanent resident from Afghanistan, my schooling and university degree is from Pakistan. are my credentials acceptable in US institutions? and apart from GRE what other exam should I take to get admission for Masters in the US?
    Thanks

    • David Recine
      David Recine October 25, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

      As a general rule, Pakistani academic credentials are accepted by U.S. universities. However, sometimes certain course credits and even whole degrees may be rejected by an individual university. This can depend both on the university you’ve applied to and the kind of undergrad degree/major you have.

      Most Masters programs require either the GRE or the GMAT. The GMAT is for some business-oriented Master’s, and is an especially common requirement for MBA programs. Usually, you’ll only need to take one of these two tests. It’s very rare for a school to require both the GRE and GMAT. There’s some chance you’ll be asked to take the TOEFL, but as a US permanent resident, you usually can avoid that requirement.

  2. Ayush Patel December 4, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    I am also having a visa application process pending right now. I have given gre and toefl in India. How should I apply now to universities for Master’s. Do their minimum score requirements change.
    One more thing, if I am gonna be the green card holder, then the application deadlines will also be changed?? and please can you provide more details on admisiion process.
    Thankyou

    • David Recine
      David Recine December 6, 2016 at 7:38 am #

      This is a tricky situation, Ayush. Until your Visa is approved, you are technically supposed to apply as an international student. However, once you actually get your Green Card, you will no longer be eligible to apply to American universities as an international school, and you’ll need to follow the requirements for Green Card Holders instead. If at all possible, I recommend waiting until your green card comes through before you actually apply to schools. If you want to file school applications while your Green Card is still pending, contact your target schools, explain your situation to them, and see if you should initially proceed as an international or domestic applicant.

      Now to answer your questions about possible differences in test score requirements and deadlines for Green Card holders vs. international students. First, know that your GRE score requirements won’t change at most universities. However, a very small handful of schools (Duke in North Carolina for example) hold international students to lower GRE score requirements. So double-check with your school to see if your GRE requirements change. Again though, they probably won’t. As for the TOEFL, there’s a chance you won’t need to take the TOEFL at all if you apply to school with a Green Card. If a school still does require you to take the TOEFL though, the score requirements won’t change once you get US permanent residency. Again, though, school policies vary and you’ll need to contact your schools to be sure.

      You are very likely to have different application deadlines/timelines as a Green Card holder. Generally, universities have two different sets of admissions deadlines: one for international students, and one for domestic students. With a Green Card, you will be classified as a domestic student. This does NOT vary from school-to-school, as your change in status is based on US federal law. To find the application deadlines for domestic students, look for the “domestic students” pages on university admissions websites. This will tell you exactly how your deadlines will be different if you have a Green Card.

  3. rahul December 12, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    hii,i m Green card holder,i done graduation in india.Right now i m applying for the MS in civil engineering in USA. But i m littlebit confuse,with a greencard holder should i apply MS as a domestic applicant or an international applicant.And with a green card holder should GRE and IELTS is require in MS?

    • David Recine
      David Recine December 13, 2016 at 9:16 am #

      Congratulations on getting your Green Card, Rahul! ๐Ÿ™‚ to answer your first question, as a Green Card holder, you should apply as a domestic student. In answer to your second question, you’ll have to meet the same GRE requirements now that you’re a Green Card holder. As for the IELTS, most American universities don’t make Green Card applicants take any English exams. But a few highly competitive schools may still ask you for an IELTS or TOEFL score, even though you’re a domestic student now. Double check with your schools to see if you still need to take the IELTS.

  4. Piya Bashnet January 5, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    Hi
    I am a green card holder
    I want to start my study
    But my English is not good.
    How can I improve my language?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 6, 2017 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Piya,

      If you want to prepare for undergraduate or graduate studies and need to improve your English, I would recommend preparing for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). The exam focuses on testing your communication skills, specifically Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. As such, preparation for this exam will also help improve your English! If you’re interested in this test prep content, check out our services here at Magoosh! Good luck Piya! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Khan January 26, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    Hi,

    I am living in the USA since 2014 as a green card holder. I did my seven-semester bachelor degree in Afghanistan and couldn’t finish the last semester when I moved to the US. now I am thinking how to go back to college and get more credit in order to complete my bachelor degree here in the US. It is worth to mention I evaluated my credit by certify company in the US and most of my credit has been transfer to US standard level.

    Would you please help me where to start, By the way, I am living in Virginia.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 27, 2017 at 2:26 am #

      Hi Khan,

      This is way beyond our expertise, and you will need to get in touch with people who handle these types of situations professionally if you have further questions about credit transfer, etc. Otherwise, you sound like you need to talk with admissions professionals in the area where you want to attend school. They can give you advice about scores and applications as well as guide you to take the appropriate classes to finish your degree. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. anika February 21, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

    hi
    i am a green card holder and i will be completing my 12th grade here in bangladesh. what would my process be to apply to universities like u-minnesota, u-wisconsin and other average universities? as my high school is from a different country, will i be considered as an international student while applying or i can apply as a permanent resident?

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 23, 2017 at 4:31 am #

      Hi Anika,

      Since you have a Green Card, you’d apply as a permanent resident, a domestic student. That’s great, because it means you can avoid the extra fees and complications that come with getting an international student visa. Still, make sure you clearly state your status when you apply to American schools. You may want to even include an special note about the situation and a copy of your Green Card, just to avoid any confusion during the application process.

  7. Rajvi March 15, 2017 at 3:51 am #

    hi

    i had just completed 12th in india in march 17 and i got green card in feb 17 .my first langaugei is english so what can i do for my futher study??

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

      Hi Rajvi,

      Happy to help ๐Ÿ™‚ The first step will be researching the requirements for your dream schools! Most schools websites will have plenty of information about the requirements for admission. No matter what, you will have to start looking in to standardized tests for college admission. You may have to take the TOEFL, and you’ll have to choose between the SAT and ACT. I recommend that you check out our High School Blog which has tons of great information about the SAT and ACT so that you can choose the test that is best for you! When you are ready to get started, check out our study plans. Our structured self-study program will provide you with the skills and practice you need for success on all three of these tests ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck!

  8. Lisa March 17, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

    Hello!
    Congratulation for the post!
    I am from Italy, where I graduated from an economy school with a great score. My green card is coming soon and I’d like to start college as soon as possible. My questions for you are:
    -Can my high school diploma be helpful for my application?
    -Am I supposed to take the TOEFL before to start college?
    -Am I going to be considered as an international student?

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 18, 2017 at 2:04 am #

      Hi Lisa,

      Congrats on your pending Green Card. ๐Ÿ™‚ In answer to your questions:

      – Your high school diploma will of course be required for your application. The economy high school diploma may be useful if you are already planning to declare a major in something related to economics or business. Your diploma can also be useful if any of your classes were taught in English. And of course, you’ll need to submit your HS diploma to any college regardless.

      – Once you have your Green Card, you probably won’t need to take the TOEFL. Most universities only require the TOEFL if you are an international student. (To be sure about this, double-check with the schools you’re applying to.)

      – You won’t be treated as an international student if you have a Green Card. I recommend not applying to schools until after you have your Green Card. With your Green Card, you can be treated as a domestic student. This makes the application process simpler and increases your chances of acceptance. At public universities, applying as a domestic student also means that you pay less tuition and have access to US Department of Education grants and loans if you need them.

      • Lisa March 18, 2017 at 11:26 am #

        Thank you for your ready answer. I really appreciate it.
        I wanted just to ask you the last thing:
        So, since you said that I am not going to be considered as an international student, I was wondering if the school expect a me to have an excellent english. My English is not perfect… Can this be a problem for my scores. Am I going to be penalized for this luck of confidence with the language?

        • David Recine
          David Recine March 19, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

          American universities understand that immigrants don’t always have the same level of English as their American-born classmates. So you won’t be penalized for having a lower level of English. However, you will likely be given an English placement test before your first day of classes. This exam won’t be like the the TOEFL– it won’t determine whether you actually get accepted. However, if you have a low score on the placement test, you may need to take one or two extra English courses in order to graduate. These classes help Green Card holders get extra language training so that they can be successful in their academics.

          • Lisa March 20, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

            Thank you so much!! Your knowledge is very helpful.

  9. Haider March 22, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

    Hi, my son is a green card holder, he is doing engineering graduate programme from india. My question is does he need to write gre& tofel. If he applly for MS in US university, Is he eligible for instate tution fees.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 24, 2017 at 6:55 am #

      Hi Haider,

      Typically having a green card removes some of these requirements placed on applicants needing visas, but the only guaranteed way to find out what he does or doesn’t need to do is to ask admissions departments themselves. In theory, he should not need to write the TOEFL, but the GRE will absolutely still be required. He may still be asked to give a TOEFL score if not enough of his education was in English.

  10. MANTHAN PATEL April 19, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    HI I am Indian citizen I am going to USA after one year on my permanent visa I completed my Bachelor of science in physics but in India B.Sc is of three years and in USA B.Sc is for years so what can I do to complete my remaining credits to get admission in M.Sc in physic.Should I have to give GRE OR TOEFL to get admission in USA

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 21, 2017 at 6:39 am #

      Transferring credits from an overseas program can be a little tricky. But it can be done. Different universities approach overseas classes in different ways. TO find out exactly how to transfer your course credit from India to a US school, contact the schools you’re applying to. They can give you some answers. Or, if you’re not yet sure where you’ll apply to school, read Magoosh’s blog post on transferring course credit from abroad. This should help you get started.

  11. AJV April 20, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    Hi,
    I’m an Indian citizen and I completed my 12th or higher secondary education in 1999,I joined an engineering course in India itself but unfortunately I couldn’t complete my course.i moved to US in 2014 and now I’m a Green card holder. I would like to join any Undergraduate courses.I would really appreciate if anyone could advise me on the procedures or requirements to join an Undergraduation course in US..
    Thanks…

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 21, 2017 at 6:36 am #

      As long as you’ve completed high school in India, and your programme was equivalent to high school completion in the US, you can attend undergraduate studies in the USA. To go to a four-year university, you’ll probably need scores in either the ACT or the SAT. For a community college, you may not need to take an entrance exam. Most two year programs simply give you a placement exam so they can know your current academic skills and get you enrolled in the correct classes.

      Very few universities ask Green Card Holders to take the TOEFL. You also have a good chance at not needing the TOEFL because you’re from India. India is treated as a TOEFL exempt country by many American universities.

      The tricky thing here is that admissions policies for Green Card holders can be different on each campus. To find out the exact testing requirements you need to enter university, check with the schools in America that you are applying to.

  12. Ruhab April 24, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

    Hi,
    Im from Pakistan and will be moving to U.S around september or october hopefully, as we’re waiting for the interview letter. I’ll be done with my highschool in the next month and will get my result in August. Im thinking to start preparing for the SAT test, as i dont want to waste any time and would like to start University in the winter or spring of 2018 in U.S. I’ll be moving to either Atlanta or Houston.
    My question is what tests should i take? Do i have to take TOEFEL or only SAT would be enough? And which colleges are best(and easy on the pocket) for me as i want to major in psychology?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 25, 2017 at 4:16 am #

      Hi Ruhab,

      You’re in a quite unique situation! I’ll do my best to give you starting information, but you are going to need to do a lot of research and probably contact universities yourself to get better, more detailed answers.

      Tests: You should look at the SAT and ACT because they are similar tests that are both used in undergraduate admissions. Also pay attention to what tests your desired schools ask for. There are times when only one is accepted, or that one is favored over another. Be aware of this and that can help you make the best choice. As for the TOEFL, sometimes if you can prove your education was delivered in English for x years (often I hear “the last 8 consecutive years,” but check with the university) you may not need a TOEFL exam. This should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

      Universities: It will typically be cheapest to attend a state school in the state where you have residency. Georgia’s rules are: “To be considered for in-state tuition privileges, you, your parent(s) and/or your legal guardian must have resided in the state of Georgia for a minimum of 12 consecutive months immediately prior to enrollment at a college or university in Georgia.” From what I have found, the rules are the same in Texas. So if you arrive in October, you will need to wait until October 2018 to be eligible for resident (and therefore significantly cheaper) tuition in whatever state you live in.

      Once you know what state you will be living in, research the top universities in those states to help make your choice. You can cross reference these searches with lists that highlight the best psychology programs in the state, too. I hope this helps, and good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ruhab April 26, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

        Thanks alot! This was VERY helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Sora May 12, 2017 at 3:10 am #

    Hello,

    I’m going to move to US soon and get a green card holder. I finished high school and bachelor degree in my home country. I’m planing to study nursing in US as my career. Now let’s imagine that I have a green card so,

    Here are my questions:

    1) I’d like to ask you the processing to enter the nursing college? (as my high school results was not really good and I am not really good at math)

    2) Do I need to take any English test before enter college?

    3) If i am not good at math, can I still enter the college?

    4) Is there any entrance exam to enter college for a green card holder? If there is may you please tell me what is it?

    Thank you so much!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 12, 2017 at 5:17 am #

      Hi Sora! There are some questions here that we are not qualified to answer for you, but I will do my best to get you started. You should definitely start doing your own research into admissions, entry requirements, etc. That will help you a lot! ๐Ÿ™‚

      (1) That depends on the college, and we are not nursing college experts here. You will need to decide what type of nursing school you want to attend, what degree/certification you want, etc. and then use that information to make the appropriate choices for your next steps. I recommend contacting a local nursing school when you arrive (or research some now and reach out) to get information and find out about open house days.

      (2) You might. The college will have its own rules regarding whether or not you need this, so find out based on the places you want to study

      (3) Yes! But you will have to meet some criteria. Typically there are pre-entry courses you have to take or rudimentary work you must complete as part of a conditional acceptance. Alternatively, you might have to take some local community college math courses before you are allowed to apply. It depends on the school again.

      (4) Your entry exams will be the same as others’. Some may want an SAT/ACT score, some may want a nursing-specific test, and some may have their own. You, again, need to research the specific requirements for your desired schools.

      Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Vaibhavi May 19, 2017 at 5:46 am #

    I am about to go to chicago,usa. I m 12th pass in india so what exam should i give to talk admittion in usa for graducation. I m science maths scream student.name that all exam i should give to take admittion in engi engineering in usa.

    • David Recine
      David Recine May 20, 2017 at 7:05 am #

      There actually isn’t a specific final exam for graduating high school in the USA. For the purposes of enrolling in university, you just need to show the university your foreign high school transcripts.(For some suggestions on how to do this, see my post on transferring course credit from abroad.)

  15. Mim May 28, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    Hi
    my sister is a green card holder
    Is it necessary to wait 1year to start her study. And in future to get a government job what kind of study will she start.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 29, 2017 at 1:54 am #

      Hi Mim,

      Congratulations to your sister. She won’t need to wait one year before she can be admitted to American universities as a domestic, non-international student. However, if she didn’t live in the USA before getting her Green Card, she may need a year of residency before she can get the in-state tuition discount that is offered at American public universities. (She should check with local public universities to find the exact rules for in-state tuition and residency.)

      As for the degree needed for a government job– that really depends a lot on the kind of government work your sister aspires to do. If you look at American government job listings, you’ll see the degree requirements for each kind of job.

  16. Lia June 7, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    Hello, I just graduated from a U.S. college in May with a bachelor’s degree. My husband and I registered a marriage in late May too. Right now my green card application package is on its way to IL USCIS. Since I cannot work without an EAD, I feel bored and would like to take an online class through LSU. I am not sure whether I am allowed to do that. Could you please tell me will taking an online class right now hurt my application progress? Thank you very much.

    • David Recine
      David Recine June 7, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

      Most public universities open their online classes to anyone, with any citizenship status, living anywhere in the world. So I will say– cautiously– that taking an online class at LSU probably won’t hurt your application progress. That being said, you want to be careful as you have your Green Card pending. I recommend contacting LSU’s office of international education (or their admissions office), and asking their advice. It is probably a good idea to also contact USCIS and double-check with them.

      But like I said, I think there’s a good chance you’ll be told that it’s OK. Good luck, and if you get a chance, come back to the comments field here and let us know how it went. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Isabela July 14, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    Hi! I am a green hard holder, but i did my undergrad degree in Peru. I was wondering, if I want tu apply to a public school to pay as a “in-state” would i have to prove with documentation that i have been leaving in that state for sometime or is that not the case?

    Another question, for private colleges, is there more chances to get in with a green card? does it give you more chances to get financial aid?

    Hope you can help me!

    Many thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

      Hi Isabela,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so I can’t provide perfect answers for you. In most cases, even for those born in the US, you have to prove residency to apply for in-state tuition. The documentation and requirements depends on the school, and this is information you can usually find on their website.

      I’m not aware of any situations where having green card increases your chances at a private school vs. a public school. This would really depend on the school and what they are looking for. Private schools are generally (but not always) more expensive and offer less financial aid than public schools, even for citizens. You would have to contact the schools to determine the exact answer to these questions ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Asra July 29, 2017 at 4:59 am #

    Hi i am green card holder … and i completed my 12 grade in Pakistan… and after a year i moved to America.. and now i am over aged for the college .. and they are suggesting me to go fr adult education… i want to go futher in psychology…. but i have no idea how to continue my studies futher .. can u please guide me
    It would so nice of you
    ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 31, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi Asra,

      I am not sure what you mean that you are “over aged” for college as people of all ages enter college in the US. I advise you to double check what you were told and see if maybe some terms got mixed up? You are definitely not too old to get into any field, so keep asking until you get some better answers! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Yasir Anwer August 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

    Hi, I’m a U.S. green card holder since 2015 and want to apply to Universities in California LA as most of my family lives there.

    I recently graduated from high school in CANADA (I also have Canadian PR card) so since 2015 I was not physically present in the United States.
    My Question is, in order to apply to a University in the U.S. do I have to be physically present for 1 year in the state in which I want to apply or can I just directly apply as a local student on the basis of my Green Card.

    Thanks.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 4, 2017 at 9:07 pm #

      State residency requirements are different for many circumstances, and you will have to research this issue to be sure. The admissions departments of the universities you want to attend will certainly know. I would not be surprised to find out that you must reside for 1 year and do other things that imply residency (e.g. have a permanent address, state ID, etc.) so be prepared for that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Dhvani August 4, 2017 at 5:32 am #

    Hello, This is Dhvani. I am a green card holder of USA and I have completed my master in Biotechnology from India. I have appeared both GRE and IELTS as i am planning to pursue further master in US, but I’m not being considered as an in-state student for an admission purpose, so would please suggest me what should I do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 4, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      Hi Dhvani,

      You can either (a) move to the state and complete residency requirements; or (b) pay the more expensive tuition assessed to students not holding residency. The choice depends on your life and how much time you have. Good luck!


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