English Proficiency Requirement

What is the English Proficiency requirement?

Per the U.S. Department of State guidelines, J-1 exchange visitors must possess “sufficient proficiency in the English language, as determined by an objective measurement of English language proficiency, successfully to participate in his or her program and to function on a day-to-day basis”.

The purpose of this federal requirement serves many purposes, mainly to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the visitor:

  • The visitor will be able to contact authorities in the event of an emergency and discuss medical treatment with a doctor.
  • The visitor will not be dependent on others for translation services.
  • The visitor will be able to be productive and start the program objectives from day one without having to struggle too much with language.
  • The visitor will have an easier time with day-to-day life. For example, the visitor will be able to order meals at a restaurant and if they are a parent, they will be able to discuss academic progress or any issues with school teachers and administrators.

Please note, the information listed below only applies to those requesting sponsorship under the following J-1 categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, and Student Intern. J-1 Degree Seeking and Exchange Students should refer to the guidance provided by their program sponsor upon admission to the university.

How can I prove my English language proficiency?

In order to be eligible for J-1 sponsorship, all new exchange visitors will need to provide evidence of English proficiency in one of the following ways:

  1. Copy of a diploma, or other signed documentation, that confirms the exchange visitor earned a degree from an institution of higher education that operates in English.
  2. Approved English test score taken within the last five years:
    • TOEFL score of at least 79; or
    • IELTs score of at least 6.5.
  3. Texas Global English Language Center (ELC) interview: You will receive an email with instructions to sign up for an exam time with the ELC. The cost of the interview is $80, and can be paid by the department or the visiting scholar. 
  4. If the scholar is from any of the countries listed below, appropriate documentation must be submitted in myIO via the English Proficiency e-form during the initial J-1 request process. Proof of English proficiency is not required for extensions.

Countries Exempt From the English Proficiency Requirement

American Samoa











Turks and Caicos Islands


Grand Cayman


United Kingdom



New Zealand

U.S Pacific Trust.

Canada (except Quebec)