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TOEFL For U.S. Green Card Holders: Frequently Asked Questions

TOEFL for U.S. Green Card Holders

In 2014, I wrote a post on TOEFL for U.S. Green Card Holders. This post has inspired more comments and questions than any other post I’ve written! In this follow-up post, I’m going to gather some important frequently asked questions about the TOEFL for American permanent residents. With answers, of course.

I am about to get a Green Card, but I don’t have one yet. Do I need to take the TOEFL to apply to universities?

The short answer to this question is “yes.” If you don’t have a Green Card, then you’ll need to apply to schools as an international student. And international students always need to take a test such as the TOEFL or IELTS. (Or occasionally a different English exam such as the TOEIC or Eiken.)

However, if you’re about to get your Green Card, it’s probably better not to apply to any universities for the time being. Applying to school as an international student is much more complicated– and expensive— than applying to schools as a U.S. permanent resident. Also, it doesn’t make sense to try to get a student visa when you have already applied for U.S. permanent residency. This could complicate and even delay your receipt of a Green Card.

I just got my Green Card. Do I need to take the TOEFL or a similar test if I apply to a universities?

The short answer to this is “maybe, but probably not.” Some universities require English testing scores of all applicants who come from an ESL background. However, the vast majority of universities in the United States only ask international students to take the TOEFL or a similar exam. If you have your Green Card and are a permanent resident of the United States, you’ll certainly be able to find schools that will accept you without a TOEFL score. But some schools you’re interested in may still ask you to take the TOEFL.

I want to work in healthcare in the United States. Now that I have my Green Card, do I still need to take the TOEFL for medical school or medial licensing?

English proficiency is very important in medicine. You must be able to accurately read English language medical charts, doctor’s instructions, and so on. And you must be able to clearly communicate with patients and fellow healthcare workers. Because of this, it’s very likely you’ll still need to take the TOEFL to get into medical school, even if your’e applying as a U.S. permanent resident. And you will absolutely need to take the TOEFL to demonstrate English ability for licensing purposes, whether you have a Green Card or not.

How does my Green Card affect university admissions in general?

Now that’s a whole other set of frequently asked questions! I’ll get to that in my next Green Card post. Watch this space!

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16 Responses to TOEFL For U.S. Green Card Holders: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Rutvi April 16, 2017 at 4:33 am #

    I will go to usa after few month. I will receive greencard within one month which requirements for M.S in NJ university. Pls u give information about fees and scholarship which score is require and fees for Greencard holder

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 18, 2017 at 1:49 am #

      Congratulations on your upcoming Green Card Rutvi. 🙂 As for the MS requirements– in terms of testing, you’ll still need to take any graduate exams (GRE, GMAT, MCAT, etc…) that are required. Usually, the required scores for your graduate exam will be the same, whether you have a Green Card or are an international student. Check with the schools you’re applying to, and they’ll tell you their exact requirements. The requirements will be different at different schools. And in fact, graduate entrance exam requirements will even be different at separate grad programs at the SAME university.

      But you probably won’t be asked to take the TOEFL. In very rare cases, some universities ask all non-native English speakers to take the TOEFL. But at most schools, Green Card = no TOEFL.

      As far as fees and scholarship, at public universities, your fees will be a lot lower with a Green Card, compared to international student fees. How much lower? That depends on whether or not you can be considered an in-state New Jersey resident for tuition purposes. Again, this is something you need to check on with the schools you’re applying to. At private universities, fees are generally the same for international students and Green Card holders.

      Scholarships are a different story. Your scholarship options definitely do change once you get a Green Card. Some scholarships for international students will no longer be available. Other forms of financial aid, including US government funding for school, may become available. Again, check with the schools where you’ve applied, and they can give you more details.

  2. ethiopia May 14, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    hi i will move to the USA in few weeks i got my visa through dv lottery and my Green Card is pending,so when should i can apply for university for undergrad class. and do i need to stay for 12 month in USA for getting in to school so that i can get in sate tuition

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 17, 2017 at 9:01 am #

      Hello! While we would love to be able to advise you, we’re not experts on these topics. Immigration status and residency requirements differ case-by-case and state-by-state, so you will need to do research specifically on the state you want to live in and your own immigration status. Most states will require that you have been living, working, paying taxes, etc. in a state before you are considered a resident for tuition purposes, but again, you will need to research the rules for your desired state. I would also contact admissions departments in that state to get further information for how the university handles this type of situation, too! Good luck, and early welcome to the US. 🙂

      • ethiopia May 19, 2017 at 4:53 am #

        thanks for the advice. for ur info i am moving to Virginia and i have not taken any TOEFL or sat exams. so i was thinking to take them in USA after i arrive and i was second year student in my country. so when do u thing is my probability of getting in to collage and does they let me start as afresh man.

        • David Recine
          David Recine May 20, 2017 at 7:11 am #

          Your probability of getting into college somewhere is definitely quite good. Whether or not you can get into a top school depends on your grades in high school in your home country, your English proficiency, and other similar factors related to your academic history or academic skills.

          If you’re looking mostly for state schools, it’s unlikely that they’ll ask you to take the TOEFL, although you will need a score on the SAT or ACT.

          As for whether you’d start as a freshman or as a second year (or maybe even third year student), this depends on whether or not you’ll be able to transfer the credits form your first two years of university in your home country. For more information on transferring course credits form your home country into an American school, see this post.

  3. Ram Chavali August 9, 2017 at 12:46 pm #


    I am an American Citizen who has done his bachelors outside USA. I am preparing for GRE and have doubts over whether I should register for TOEFL or not.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 11, 2017 at 9:58 am #

      Hi Ram,

      If you are an American citizen, you typically are exempted from these requirements, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Reach out to some admissions committees to verify, if you are worried. 🙂

  4. maryam October 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

    I came to united state in Jan 2016 and I finished my 11th grade semester 2 in high school of California.
    And I gonna finish 12th grade in may 2018 .and I am undergraduate and under the age of 24 . in Jan 2018.I will be here for one years and one day(366 days)
    The point is that I need to apply for university before December 2017 . So am I need to tack TOEFL or no?

    • David Recine
      David Recine October 17, 2017 at 9:21 am #

      If you finish high school on a student visa, most universities will ask you for the TOEFL. However, if you have been attending high school on a Green Card (or as a new citizen), then most schools won’t require the TOEFL.

  5. Minsuh Kim March 20, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    I am currently a permanent resident. I’m going college next year since I’m a junior. Do I have to take the TOEFL to apply the colleges??

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 21, 2018 at 10:52 am #

      Hi Minsuh,

      This depends on the schools that you plan to apply to. Some schools might require you to take the TOEFL, but many do not require permanent residents to take an English language test. I recommend that you check out the admissions requirements for your target schools to see what the requirements are 🙂

  6. samikshya July 7, 2018 at 9:56 am #

    Hi there, i came to states 1 and half year ago and i have my green card too and i completed by bachelor’s degree back home only and i want to pursue my masters here but do i need to give any TOFEL tests??

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 10, 2018 at 5:59 pm #

      First, Samikshya, congratulations on getting your Green Card! 🙂 Second, you probably won’t be asked to take the TOEFL. There are some highly competitive universities that might ask for that, But more often than not, even at top schools, only students who ate studying on international student visas need to take an English proficiency exam.

      One other important note, though. Since your bachelor’s degree was earned outside of the USA, many grad programs will want to see an evaluation of your undergraduate credits. For more information on foreign credit evaluation, see my article on transferring course credit from abroad.

  7. Prosky Joseph September 25, 2018 at 4:58 pm #

    Alright i am an American citizen but i go to school in Haiti ny English is very good because i always travel
    To the states every holiday or summer do i still need to take the TOEFL in Haiti in order to get accepted?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 28, 2018 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Prosky,

      Great question! If the primary language of your high school is not English, you may have to prove your English proficiency. For some schools, you can prove your English proficiency with your scores on the SAT/ACT, but others might require an English Proficiency test like the TOEFL or IELTS. I recommend that you research some of your target schools in order to determine their English Proficiency requirements 🙂

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