Intensive English Programs for U.S. Green Card Holders

U.S. Green Card holders often consider attending an intensive English program (IEP) to improve their language skills. There are both pros and cons to this option.

The advantages of Intensive English Programs for U.S. Green Card holders

There are some obvious “pros” to enrolling in an intensive English program, whether you are an international student or someone with a Green Card. IEPs offer long hours of guided English practice. They are a proven way to greatly improve your English within several months to a year of study.

IEPs are also very geared toward college preparation. This kind of program teaches school skills, gives out university-style homework, and even offers lessons on the culture of higher education in the U.S.A. Not only that, but most IEPs offer classes in TOEFL prep.

The disadvantages of Intensive English Programs for U.S. Green Card Holders

On the other hand, IEPs are really designed for international students, not U.S. permanent residents. There are no practical lessons about day-to-day life in America, because most international students only worry about life on campus. There are no classes to help students prepare for the local job market either; international students have a limited ability to work in the U.S.A.

Also, with their fast-paced courses designed for traditional college students, IEPs are not the most flexible option for Green Card holders who may have regular jobs and families to care for.

Moreover, although IEPs have partnerships with universities, IEP students usually don’t get full access to campus resources. Students at an IEP may not have be able to use the campus library, university tutoring services, and other school facilities. In fact, IEPs are often not even located on an actual university campus.

For international students with limited study options, this may not seem like a big deal. But U.S. permanent have other options that could carry more benefits.

The cost of intensive English programs for U.S. Green Card Holders

Another important aspect of Intensive English programs is cost. Typically, IEPs are pretty expensive. Even when they are directly managed by their university, IEPs charge more than the regular in-state tuition rate. Often, IEPs charge the international tuition rate to anyone admitted student, even if the student has a Green Card and would normally be eligible for in-state tuition.

Luckily, these high-priced models are starting to change… for U.S. permanent residents, at least. As more and more non-native English speakers immigrate the America, IEPs have become more willing to offer affordable tuition to U.S. residents. Some university IEPs now offer in-state tuition to local Green Card holders.

Other IEPs offer very low-priced “audited” classes to U.S. permanent residents. An audited class is a class that’s taken just for the learning experience, and not for university credits. This can be a great option for Green Card holders. Green Card holders do not actually need to earn IEP credit to get accepted into a regular university program– that requirement only applies to international students.

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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!

4 Responses to Intensive English Programs for U.S. Green Card Holders

  1. ignacio May 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi David,

    Excellent post. could you recommended some Universities or institutions which offer affordable tuition in the Intensive english programs for U.S. Green Card Holders?

    Also, what advice could you provide when moving to another state for studying English.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 29, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi Ignacio,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to say which programs will have more affordable tuition–this really depends on where you live and what sort of class you are looking for. Our expertise is in test prep, not financial advice, so I am not sure how best to answer your question. My best advice would be to do some research into the schools you are interested in.

      I also recommend that you look in to community colleges, which will offer English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes for credit at a much more affordable rate than 4-year universities. Many cities will also offer free or affordable adult EFL classes through high schools or adult education centers. It’s best to do some research and find a program that fits your budget and needs!

      If you are moving to another state to study English, it’s best to do plenty of research and make sure that the move is worth it! Your green card gives you residency for in-state tuition wherever you reside, but you might lose those benefits if you move to another state. You may have to establish your residency, which could take a year or more! You can read more about this here:

  2. Aaron Chang December 16, 2018 at 12:43 am #

    Hi, David. We know that international students can get a conditional offer by taking a TOEFL test but without taking SAT or ACT. Can I apply the university with the same way above if I am a green card holder who studied in Taiwanese high school?
    In other words, do I allow to apply for the conditional admission which is for the international students?
    If I can, how’s the tuition gonna be?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 18, 2018 at 7:15 am #

      Hi Aaron,

      Our expertise is in test prep. not admissions advice, so I’m afraid we aren’t the best people to answer this question! I highly recommend that you contact the admissions counselors for your target schools to gain a deeper understanding of the admissions requirements. This blog post might help to answer some of your questions, but it’s best to get the information straight from the source!

      International students seeking conditional acceptance still need to complete all of the requirements for admissions–including taking the ACT/SAT if the school requires it. These requirements are not waived for international students. As a green card holder, you will still need to take the admissions tests if the school requires them for admission. However, as a green-card holder, you are eligible for in-state tuition, which is much less than international student tuition.

      Again, I encourage you to contact your target schools directly to determine their admissions requirements! You want to be able to prepare effectively, so you should be sure to have the most up-to-date information!

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