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J-1 english proficiency requirement

The Exchange Visitor Program requires all J-1 program sponsors to retain documentation that their exchange visitors are proficient enough in English to participate successfully in their program and to function on a day-to-day basis in the United States. While sponsors are given some leeway in determining how proficient scholars must be, they must document proficiency through one or more of the following objective measurements.

All J-1 exchange visitors are subject to this requirement, including native English speakers.

English proficiency documentation is a required part of the J-1 Visa Request so units must obtain this prior to submitting the visa request to ISO.

Acceptable Documentation of English Proficiency

Recognized English Language Test Results with Exchange Visitor Name

On a pass/fail test like a Cambridge English exam, the exchange visitor must have passed. On a scored test like the TOEFL, the unit can determine how many points are required, as long as some level of spoken proficiency is required. Online or informal tests are not acceptable

Units may find it helpful to refer to the UW Admissions requirements for English proficiency in determining what scores are acceptable.

Signed Documentation from an Academic Institution or English Language School

Units must obtain a copy of a signed document on institutional letterhead. The document must include the following:

  • Scholar’s name
  • Dates they attended the institution
  • Proficiency assessment
  • If the document is not from a school that teaches the English language, it must give some basis for the assessment, for example coursework in English or a substantial period of time spent living in an English-speaking country.

Documented Interview Conducted by Sponsor

The interview must be conducted in person or by video conference by the faculty sponsor or another department employee who is proficient in spoken English. If neither in-person nor video conference interviews are possible, the interview may take place over the phone.

The documentation should include the following information:

  • The names of the participants
  • The date, time, and method of the interview
  • How English proficiency was assessed
  • A statement that the exchange visitor is proficient enough in English to participate successfully in the exchange program and to function on a day-to-day basis in the U.S.

ISO does not have a template for this document, but will provide review and guidance upon request. If you have questions about this requirement, please contact ISO.