The U.S. Department of State has mandated that J-1 exchange visitors — including short-term scholars, research scholars, lecturers, and professors — have the English language skills necessary to successfully participate in their programs and to function on a day-to-day basis.

All new requests processed through Virginia Tech International Support Services for J-1 exchange visitors must include documentation of sufficient English proficiency as outlined below. The Language and Culture Institute works with departmental hosts to ensure that exchange visitors meet the university's language requirements.

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Determining the minimum standards

The Language and Culture Institute has worked with ISS to develop objective and transparent standards to assess sufficient English proficiency and to determine what evidence ISS will accept as verification of sufficient English proficiency. The LCI's ESL professionals have determined what minimum score requirements for various objective English exams are appropriate levels for the types of programs in which J-1 scholars and student interns participate. Furthermore, these standards largely mirror the minimum requirements already in place for undergraduate and graduate students.

Meeting the requirement

The options below are available for documenting sufficient English proficiency.  Departments should work with the LCI  to submit documentation to demonstrate that a visitor meets one of the three options below.  The LCI will issue a review back to the department, and the department should include that review as a support document in the J-1 request to ISS.

OPTION 1: Evidence of having obtained a degree from a postsecondary institution whose language of instruction is English (including U.S. institutions)

  • For degrees from U.S. institutions, evidence must be in the form of a transcript or diploma showing the degree conferred.  No additional documentation indicating the language of instructions is English is needed for degrees from U.S. institutions. 
  • For degrees from non-U.S. institutions, evidence must be in form of transcript in English showing degree conferred and English as the language of instruction. 
    • If the transcript from a non-U.S. institution does not note English as the language of instruction, an official letter from the institution's registrar stating the individual attended the institution and the medium of instruction was English can be submitted with the transcript.

OPTION 2: Evidence of citizenship of a country whose official language is English

  • A list of countries whose official language is English will be posted here soon.

OPTION 3: Evidence of having obtained the minimum required scores on a recognized English language test

  • The matrix below indicates minimum required scores of various recognized English tests, one of which an individual must meet to qualify for J-1 sponsorship in the scholar and student intern categories at Virginia Tech. To document test scores, a test-taker should request official score reports be sent to the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute in Blacksburg by the testing agency on behalf of the test-taker. Only test scores from within the past two years will be considered valid.  Once the LCI receives the official scores, the institute will issue an email statement indicating that the scores meet the minimum as reflected in the test score matrix.  Requesting departments should include a printed copy of this email in the J-1 request.
  • Additional requirement for J-1s involved in teaching/lecturing if using Option 3
    In additional to evidence of minimum test scores, J-1s who will be teaching or giving talks or lectures at Virginia Tech must also pass an English Language Proficiency Interview conducted by the LCI. Evidence of passing the  interview  must be in the form of a printed email from the LCI confirming the interview has been passed. 

OPTION 4: Video chat interview with LCI

Test score matrix for use with Option 3

The TOEFL iBTIELTSPTETOEICCAE, and CPE are available worldwide. Click the name of the test to go to the test's official website to obtain information on test dates, test centers, etc.

The matrix below indicates the minimum scores for each of the J-1 categories and whether an English proficiency interview is required for that category. Please contact ISS if you are unsure what the requirement is for the J-1 category you are contemplating for your exchange visitor.

Minimum English Test Score and English Language Proficiency Interview Requirements For J-1 Categories Processed by ISS 

J-1 Category Designation

TOEFL iBT

Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test

IELTS

International English Language Testing System

PTE

Pearson Test of English

TOEIC*

Test of English for International Communication

CAE

Cambridge English: Advanced

CPE

Cambridge English: Proficiency

English Language Proficiency Interview Required in addition to test scores?

Student Intern

45

5.0

40

600/120/110

 Level B2  Level C1

No

Short-Term Scholar (conducting research only)

80

6.5

53

 780/170/160

 Grade C  Level C1

No

Short-Term Scholar (involved in teaching or giving talks/lectures)

80

6.5

53

780/170/160

 Grade C  Level C1

Yes

Research Scholar

80

6.5

53

780/170/160

 Grade C  Level C1

No

Professor

80

6.5

53

780/170/160

 Grade C  Level C1

Yes

* There are three types of TOEIC tests: 1) Listening and Reading, 2) Speaking, and 3) Writing. The Speaking and Writing tests are both scored on a scale of 0-200. The Listening and Reading test is scored on a scale of 990 points (5 – 495 points for both Listening and Reading). In order to demonstrate English proficiency using TOEIC tests, an individual must take all three tests, and his or her scores must be at or above the minimum required level for each test as indicated above.

Please note that these requirements and procedures are subject to change as we learn how the changes affect J-1 exchange visitors, host departments, and ISS. 

English Language Proficiency Interview 

One of the tests that may be used to fulfill Options 3 and 4 above, the English Language Proficiency Interview employs a verbal assessment strategy in which a rater methodically guides the examinee through a Skype or in-person dialogue.

Click here to open the English Language Proficiency Interview Application in a new window

The cost of the interview is $100. Prospective exchange visitors should check with their Virginia Tech hosting department before paying for the exam.

To pay, go to our QuikPay site. Make sure you choose the option for "J-1 Assessment Test." Note that interview fees are nonrefundable.

Virginia Tech departments may pay by Interdepartmental Service Request (ISR). Contact Eric Moore at lci-ta@vt.edu for the appropriate fund number.

Once payment has been submitted, and the application form has been completed, the candidate will receive an email with instructions for taking the test.

A candidate must cancel a scheduled interview at least 24 hours before the agreed-upon time to avoid forfeiting the fee.

Read more about the English Language Proficiency Interview Policies

Contact us

If you have question about the English requirements, contact testing and assessment coordinator Eric Moore at lci-ta@vt.edu or 540-231-3024.

Find out more about the J-1 program

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program exists to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.  The U.S. Department of State has designated Virginia Tech as a J-1 Program Sponsor, which allows the university to host foreign nationals as participants in programs conducted by Virginia Tech.  

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