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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.

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 enrolled 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!

8 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?

    • 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.

    • 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! 🙂 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 #

    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! 🙂

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