English Language Requirement

 

 New Regulations Effective January 5, 2015

The US Department of State recently released new regulations which further address English language proficiency for J-1 exchange visitors. Specifically, the new regulations require that the J-1 sponsor verify that the prospective "exchange visitor possesses 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." As a J-1 sponsor, Virginia Tech is subject to this requirement and as the office that processes the scholar and student intern categories of J-1, ISS must ensure compliance with this requirement. Therefore, effective January 5, 2015, all new requests processed through ISS for J-1 exchange visitors must include documentation of sufficient English proficiency as outlined below.

 Background on New Regulation

When the new regulation was in the proposal stage of the rulemaking process, the Department of State went through a period of public notice and comment on the proposed regulation. Once the final regulation was published, the Department of State issued the statement below in response to comments it had received during the proposal stage. The comment reveals much about the purpose the Department of State hopes the new regulation will accomplish:

"The Department believes that not only is an exchange visitor’s success in his or her particular program dependent upon sufficient English language capability, but good English communication skills are essential to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors. Moreover, the Department continues to find that too many exchange visitors lack sufficient English proficiency to perform their jobs or complete their academic programs; to navigate daily life in the United States; to read and comprehend program materials; to understand fully their responsibilities, rights, and protections; and to know how to obtain assistance, if necessary. ...The Department reminds sponsors to retain evidence of how they measured applicants’ English language proficiency so that it may be made available to the Department upon request."

Unfortunately, ISS has seen the same kinds of English problems within our Scholar and Student Intern population to which the Department of State refers in its statement above. Too many of VT's incoming scholars and student interns lack sufficient English proficiency to read, understand, and follow instructions in their pre-departure materials, to navigate the check-in process upon arrival and to successfully participate in and complete their academic programs.

As we implement new procedures in ISS to ensure compliance with the English requirement, we hope that VT's J-1 program will be impacted positively and result in a higher quality and more successful program both for exchange visitors and their host departments and will also serve to advance one of the Department of State's top priorities which is "a safe and exceptional exchange visitor program that meets the Department's highest standards."

 Determining the Minimum Standards

ISS has worked with the VT Language and Culture Institute 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 ESL professionals at the LCI 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.  For OPTIONS 1 and 2, the VT Host Department should include documentation with the J-1 request that is send to ISS.  For OPTIONS 3 and 4, the VT Host Department should work with the VT Language and Culture Institute to submit documentation to meet one of the options below.  LCI will issue a review back to the department and the department should include the LCI's review as a support document in the J-1 request to ISS:

 

OPTION 1: Evidence of having obtained a degree from a post-secondary institution whose language of instruction is English (including US institutions).

    • For degrees from US 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 US institutions. 
    • For degrees from non-US institutions, evidence must be in form of transcript in English showing degree conferred and English as the language of instruction. 
      • If transcript from a non-US 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.
      • However, if the transcript is from a Canadian institution where English is the primary language, a copy of the transcript will be sufficient.

 

OPTION 2: Evidence of citizenship of a country whose official language is English.  Evidence of citizenship must be in the form of form of a passport biogrpahical page from any of the following countries: American Samoa, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Grand Cayman, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, Liberia, New Zealand, Trinidad/Tobago, United Kingdom, US Pacific Trust. 

 

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, the test-taker should request official score reports be sent to Virginia Tech LCI in Blacksburg by the testing agency on behalf of the test-taker.  Only test scores from within the past 2 years will be considered valid.  Once LCI receives the official test scores, LCI will issue an email statement indicating 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/lectures at Virginia Tech must also pass a Spoken English Aptitude interview conducted by LCI. The matrix below indicates which J-1 categories require the Spoken English Aptitude interview. Evidence of passing the Spoken English Aptitude interview conducted by LCI must be in the form of a printed email from LCI confirming the interview has been passed. The VT Host Department should liaise directly with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., LCI's Testing and Assessment Coordinator, to arrange a Spoken English Aptitude interview. 

 

OPTION 4: Skype Interview with LCI.  The VT Host Department should liaise directly with Eric Moore, LCI's Testing and Assessment Coordinator, to arrange a Skype Interview.

   

  Matrix for use with OPTION 3 above

The TOEFL iBT, IELTS, PTE, TOEIC, CAE, 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 different J-1 categories and whether a spoken aptitude test 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 Spoken English Aptitude Test 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 Commuication

 

 

CAE

Cambridge English: Advanced

 

CPE

Cambridge English: Proficiency

Spoken English Aptitude Interview Required in addition to test scores?

Student Intern

45

5

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 TOEIC Speaking and the TOEIC Writing tests are both scored on a scale of 0-200.  The TOEIC 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/her scores must be at or above the minimum required level for each test as indicated in the chart 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.  More information will be added to this page as we receive questions and feedback and develop clarifications to the requirement and answers to FAQs.

 

 

 
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