For the Foreign-Born Spouse

Achieving the American dream often includes higher education that will lead to a professional, well-paying career. As a foreign-born spouse, you may have education and professional employment in your own country. But how does that translate to the United States? If English is your second language, the first thing you’ll need to do is demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Next, you’ll need to gain admission to a college or university, and finally, secure financial aid.

Demonstrating English Language Proficiency

To qualify for college or university level programs of study, you must first show that you can hold your own in an American classroom. Community colleges and universities each have a different set of standards to meet.  Most community colleges require that you take the school’s English placement test so you can enroll in an appropriate English level course. 

Universities require a nationally recognized English proficiency examination score such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). There are some exceptions to taking a proficiency exam. Students should contact their prospective institutions concerning the specific admission requirements.

Preparing for the Proficiency Test

The best way to determine if you are ready to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or any approved language proficiency exams is to take practice tests and see how you do. Practice tests can be found in books in your local library or bookstores. Practice tests can also be found at the TOEFL and IELTS websites.

When you’re ready, go to the official website of the test that you are taking and do the following:

Click the test registration link. When prompted, choose the country where you will take the test (not the country that you are from) and select a test center. Dates and contact information should be provided here.

Securing Financial Aid

Whether or not you are a foreign-born spouse, paying for school is often a top concern. Every student is required to complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on the information in your application you may be offered grants, loans, or work-study. Foreign-born spouses should consider that only permanent residents or U.S. citizens are eligible for federal aid. However, as a foreign-born spouse you might also be eligible for the following:

The National Military Family Association Joanne Holbrook Patton
Military Spouse Scholarship Program
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Asian and Pacific Island American Scholarship Fund
The Sallie Mae Fund
The Gates Millennium Scholarship Program


  Print Print


Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive periodic eNews and alerts.

Please leave this field empty


Want up-to-date information and a community of people that care about military families?

Facebook Icon 2013

Twitter Icon 2013

Flickr Icon 2013