David Recine

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.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

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!


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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