How To Prove English Proficiency Under the New Public Charge Rule

Immigration officers will evaluate green card applications based on a range of factors, including English proficiency

English Proficiency and the Public Charge Rule

An immigrant takes an online English language courseIMPORTANT UPDATE — MARCH 9, 2021: Both the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge rule and the Department of State (DOS) public charge policy are currently not in effect. The DHS rule was halted on March 9, 2021, while the DOS policy was paused indefinitely on July 29, 2020. This page reflects those policies, which initially took effect on Feb. 24, 2020, and will not be immediately updated according to the previous, longstanding guidance issued in 1999. Learn more.

Under the new public charge rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will judge whether a green card applicant will be able to financially support themselves when in the United States. Immigration officers will evaluate green card applications based on a range of factors, including English proficiency. You will need to prove you are proficient in English, and if you aren’t, this will count as a negative factor, and your green card application will have a higher risk of getting denied.

This guide will cover what to do if you’re:

1. Proficient in English
2. Not Proficient In English

The public charge rule adds complexities to the green card process, and if you make mistakes your application could be delayed or denied. When you partner with Boundless, an independent attorney will review your whole application and answer all your questions. Learn more about our services, or check if you qualify for a green card — without providing any personal information.

Not sure if you qualify for a marriage-based green card?
Start by checking your eligibility.

If You're Proficient In English

If you’re a native English speaker or you’re proficient in English, you can include one or more of the following with your application to demonstrate your proficiency:

  • Your high school or college transcript showing that you took an English class or that the language of instruction was English.
  • Evidence that you took an English proficiency test, like Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
  • If you’re a student in the United States on an F1 or M1 visa, you can provide a copy of Form I-20 (officially called the “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”). Alternatively, if you’re in the United States on a J1 visa, you can include a copy of Form DS-2019 (officially called the “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status”).

With Boundless, you get an experienced independent attorney to review all of your materials and answer your questions. Ready to start?

If You're Not Proficient In English

Lack of English proficiency will negatively affect your green card application under the public charge rule, which is why getting certified for English language skills is a worthwhile pursuit. It not only will improve your U.S. employment prospects in general but also help you avoid a negative determination under the public charge test.

How can I get certified?

English language courses are offered at just about every U.S. college or university. In many cases, they may offer ESL (English as a Second Language) programs designed for non-native English speakers. Start by checking with your nearest community college, as tuition at this type of school is generally cheaper, especially for international students.

You may also find such courses online if there’s no traditional higher education institution near you. Udemy, for instance, is a popular virtual learning platform that offers an “Intensive English Course” for only $13 and awards a certificate upon completion, which will be vital to proving your English proficiency to the government. Some courses are even offered for free or with a free trial and taught by professors from various U.S. universities, such as this class taught by the Georgia Institute of Technology available through Coursera, or these ESL options from edX.

Before enrolling, make sure to find out whether the program you’re interested in will award a completion certificate.

Boundless makes it easy to complete your green card application and guides you through your document gathering. Learn how we can help you, or get started now.

How well would your application fare under the public charge test? Find out using the Boundless Public Charge Risk Estimator.