English Study Options for U.S. Green Card Holders

English learners who have permanent residency in the United States (a.k.a. a U.S. Green Card) have more English study options than international students. In this post, we’ll compare the two main English study options for U.S. Green Card holders: Intensive English programs and Community College ESL Programs.

Intensive English Programs for U.S. Green Card Holders

Intensive English programs are a very popular way to learn English. They might be the first option you think of, whether you’re an international student or a Green Card holder.

  • Pros:
    • Intensive study of English (20 or more hours a week of class time) is a very effective way to improve your English. Many IEP students make dramatic improvements in less than a year.
    • You’ll make some wonderful social connections with other international people. Intensive English programs are… well… intense. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your classmates. This friendship and sense of belonging with the other students can really motivate you to learn. And it makes for a memorable experience as well as lasting friendships with people from around the world.
    • IEPs are designed to prepare students for university study. So they’re great for any Green Card holder who hopes to attend an American university, or thinks they might want to get a U.S. university degree at some point in the future.
  • Cons:
    • IEPs are generally very expensive. (With some exceptions. For details, see my previous post on intensive English programs for U.S. Green Card holders.)
    • IEPs are not geared toward business English or English language job skills. Nor do they focus on the English of every day life in America. So they may not meet the learning needs of an American permanent resident.
    • IEPs don’t offer flexible study schedules. Many U.S. Green Card holders have a local family or a regular job. Juggling work and family obligations with an IEP schedule can be difficult.

Community College English Programs for U.S. Green Card Holders

In the United States, public community colleges offer English lessons to immigrants for free.

  • Pros
    • You certainly can’t beat the price. Free English lessons can help you adjust to life in America while you also deal with the expenses of your transition to the U.S.
    • Evening classes. Most community colleges offer evening English courses to accommodate work schedules and other daytime responsibilities that U.S. permanent residents have.
    • A chance to meet fellow immigrants in the community. Taking these classes is a great way to get support not just from English teachers, but from fellow Green Card holders who are facing the same challenges that you are.
  • Cons
    • Community college English programs are not as good with university prep, or with preparation for exams like the TOEFL. In some cases, the programs don’t offer university or exam preparation at all. Community colleges are geared much more toward general English skills.
    • Limited resources. Community college English programs are funded by tax dollars, and funding does not always keep up with demand. Programs may or may not provide textbooks or other learning materials. Available classes and class hours can be limited too. Community colleges rarely offer full-time English study. And often, students can only sign up for a few hours of class per week.

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  • 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!