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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.)

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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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36 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.

      • Mido May 24, 2019 at 10:50 am #

        Hi David,

        I am a green card holder, and I’ve been working in the US as a telecom engineer for two years. I reached out to many schools to ask if they require TOEFL from permanent resident applicants and the answer was YES, as long as you’re a non-native English speaker.

        could you please provide a short list of schools where I can apply without TOEFL. I am interested in a Masters of Data science

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 5, 2019 at 3:28 pm #

          Hi Mido! Great question, but I’m afraid we don’t have a list like that. These sorts of policies change, which is why we recommend that you contact schools directly. I would suggest searching for masters in data science and put “no toefl requirement” in quotes. I just tried that and found several schools that specifically say so. I’m not sure where you might want to go for school, so I think it’s better for you to check out the regions that you’re interested in 🙂

  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 🙂

      • Ketki March 7, 2019 at 8:25 am #

        Hi i have got my green card in Jan 2019.i wish to pursue my masters in occupational therapy .i have given my TOEFL in May 2017 n got a score of 101.however due to short duration between retrieval of green card and deadline for application submission (Feb 15) ,i shall apply for my masters in July 2019 . Since TOEFL is valid for only two years ,my score shall expire in May 2019. In such a case and since it is a healthcare field do i still need to give TOEFL for my admission .

        • David Recine
          David Recine March 7, 2019 at 9:36 am #

          Congratulations on your new Green Card! 🙂 You likely will not need to submit TOEFL scores now that you have a Green Card. But in rare instances, universities ask permanent residents for TOEFL scores. So you should contact your prospective university and ask them if they need TOEFL scores from US citizens or permanent residents who are not native English speakers. If they confirm they don’t need TOEFL scores from you, you’re good to go! Otherwise, you’ll likely need to retake the exam.

  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 🙂

  8. Ram April 3, 2019 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi I’ve been in the U.S since 2010 and I am currently a highschool junior who lives his family on H4 visa. What are the requirements for me to apply to the university? Will I have to pay instate tuition ( for an in state college) or international student tuition?

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 8, 2019 at 5:35 pm #

      Great question, Ram! Many public universities will allow you to pay in-state tuition on an H4 visa. Moreover, to my knowledge, you should be able to attend American universities with an H4 visa, without having to apply as an international student or change your visa to an F1 International student visa.

      With that said, rules for in-state tuition for H4 visas can vary from state to state and from school to school. Moreover, you will no longer be an eligible dependent once you turn 21, meaning you could lose your H1 visa at that point. So if you haven’t completed your degree by then, you may need to switch to an international student visa (and potentially international student tuition rates) for the remainder of your degree.

      As I said, however, different states and different universities have their own rules for H4 visa holders. So I would advise you to call state colleges that you’re interested in, and ask them exactly how they will treat you if you are accepted and study with them under an H4 visa.

  9. Rubi June 11, 2019 at 2:45 pm #

    I am a us citizen living in usa for 11 years but i studied in Mexico, (high school and bachelor degree) Do i have to take the toefl test?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 14, 2019 at 8:48 pm #

      Hi Rubi,

      This depends on what school you are applying to; I recommend reaching out directly to an admissions counselor at your target schools to learn about their requirements. I don’t want to give you advice that could potentially be misleading 🙂

  10. Ece June 21, 2019 at 11:48 am #

    I’m not a USA citizen; however, I have a MS in Education ( TESOL). in an American university in NYC. Since I have a master’s degree, I think I will not ever be required to take TOEFL in any circumstances, will I? I kindly ask you to correct me if I’m wrong:) If so, in what circumstances ( e.g: Green Card application, another university/degree admission etc.) do I have to take TOEFL? Thank you. Regards

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 28, 2019 at 2:02 pm #

      Hi Ece,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so we aren’t the best people to answer this question. I recommend that you contact some of your target schools to get more information about their testing requirements. They will have the most accurate and useful information for you!

  11. QingQing August 26, 2019 at 2:28 am #

    Hello, I’m going to move to San Francisco by the end of this year. I’ve received the immigrant visa of USA.
    I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Distance Education in Myanmar. And I completed a Diploma in Business Management(QCF Level 5) and Diploma in Accounting and Finance(LCCI level 3) from UK. One of my friends told me that qualifications don’t recognize in US. So I’m losing my way.
    And another thing is when I apply for University, do I need to take TOFEL or SAT exam? I want to apply for a Bachelor Degree which is specialized in Finance and Accounting.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 7, 2019 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi QingQing 🙂 For this question you’ll need to contact a school of interest and see what the qualifications might be. It’s true that you may have to take the TOEFL and/or SAT, but it’s also true that some schools might accept the degrees you already have. I recommend speaking to admissions or an office of international students. They’ll be able to answer those questions. Best of luck!

  12. Param October 18, 2019 at 12:19 am #

    I am student from India
    The medium of my study during School(12 years) and Graduation(4 years) was English.
    I received my green card in February 2018 and I am planning to apply for my Post Graduation in the Fall intake of 2020.
    I have taken my GRE in the August of 2019 and score was 169 in Quant, 147 in Verbal and 4.5 in AWA.
    Is it necessary for me to take TOEFL or IELTS ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 25, 2019 at 1:42 pm #

      Hi Param, please reach out to your target schools directly for the most accurate information about admissions requirements.

  13. Muhammad December 7, 2019 at 6:18 pm #

    Hello Magoosh,
    As above wishes to get admission after bachelor degree from home country with exemption in TOEFL.

    My question is that I am in USA for 10 years on Asylum Status and I have a Master of Science in Economics degree from outside. Can I apply for admission in George Washington University and transfer my credit at what level PhD or master. Do I need to take the standardize test TOEFL, GRE, Thanks,

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 20, 2019 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Muhammad,

      I think you should contact George Washington University directly to ask about your situation and their application requirements. You will most likely still have to take the GRE and the TOEFL, but they can give you the most accurate information about their admission requirements.

  14. patrick chen August 9, 2020 at 7:00 pm #


    I am green card holder and looking for Graduate Program in data science without TOEFL, but seem all the schools in US need it, do you know any school can waive it?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2020 at 8:27 am #

      Hi Patrick, I’m afraid we aren’t experts in school admissions requirements. You’ll have to contact schools directly to learn about their requirements and make sure that you quality.

  15. Kimi September 6, 2020 at 11:43 pm #

    Hi I am a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree holder from the Philippines. And I have a professional Nursing License from there too. I’ve been residing in the us for almost 7years now, on and off.

    My question is this: Do I still need to take TOEFL If I want to get my Professional nursing license to practice here in the US?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2020 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Kimi, I think you’ll have to contact the board that awards professional nursing license to understand their requirements. Contact them directly for the most accurate information.

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