All prospective J-1 status holders other than degree-seeking students must meet the English language requirement set forth below through a standardized English language proficiency test, documented evidence of having studied or worked in the U.S., or through an Academic English Proficiency Assessment (AEPA). For the checklist to attach to any J Request submitted to OIA, please click here.
Options for meeting the requirement:
1. Standardized test scores:
- TOEFL speaking score of 18 or better
- IELTS speaking score of 6 or better
- PTE speaking score of 50 or better
Only the speaking score is required in the tests listed above.
2. Other documented evidence of meeting the English language requirement:
- Transcripts or other documented evidence from an English language school or academic institution in the U.S. or one of the countries listed below of having attended full-time for at least one academic year within five years of applying to the University of Chicago, or documented evidence of having been employed and having resided in the U.S. or one of the countries listed below for at least two years.
- By presenting evidence that the intended J-1 status holder has the required English language proficiency even though proof of proficiency takes a form other than the options listed above. Contact the Director of OIA with details before making a formal J-1 request.
- For the Checklist containing details, please click here.
The time requirement is met if any portion of the enrollment or employment of the prospective J-1 status holder has occurred within 5 years of applying to the University of Chicago.
Countries meeting the requirements listed above: U.S., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and English-medium Universities in Canada and South Africa.
3. An Academic English Proficiency Assessment (AEPA) conducted via videoconference by language placement experts in the Testing Center of the Chicago Language Center with a result of "Basic" or higher. For information on the AEPA, click here. For detailed information, including language samples of English speakers at different levels of proficiency, please visit: https://languageassessment.uchicago.edu/page/academic-english-proficiency-assement-aepa.
The requirement does not apply
To natives or permanent residents of Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and English-medium Universities in Canada and South Africa.
The requirement can be waived
- If the individual will transfer the J-1 status to the University of Chicago from another U.S. institution, where the individual has meet this requirement already.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are exemptions from the requirement possible?
Federal regulations do not provide options to sponsor someone in J-1 status who does not meet the J English language requirement. However, on occasion a department may wish to appoint/invite someone who has the required level of English language proficiency but whose situation falls outside of the options outlined above. In such a case, a request should come to the Director of the Office of International Affairs to discuss what documentation to submit to show that the requirement has been met.
The policy above lists an inconsistent set of minimum test scores. Why is that?
The English language requirement, as now stated in federal regulations, offers the option of ascertaining the English language proficiency of a prospective J-1 status holder through a documented interview by video-conferencing or by phone. Such an interview can only test the speaking ability of an individual (which inherently also says something about the listening ability) and has no method of examining the reading and writing ability of the person. Therefore, the minimum score listed above in a standardized test is the speaking score. The speaking score of each test satisfies the minimum regulatory requirement, regardless of other sub-scores of the test.
Can the department interview the prospective J-1 status holder to determine English language proficiency?
No, the interview must be undertaken by someone with formal English placement credentials, such as those held by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The interview must also comply with non-discrimination rules based on Title VII, avoiding questions/topics that could be perceived to introduce bias in the hiring or appointment process. And finally, assessment must be uniform across the University. The Chicago Language Center (CLC) staff conducting the language testing meets all those requirements and the CLC is the only entity in the University whose assessment results can be accepted.
How will the “within five years” rule be applied?
If any part of the circumstance that makes an individual eligible to waive the requirement falls within the 5-year window stated in the list of options that will suffice. For example, if someone is coming to the University at the start of the autumn quarter 2016 and earned a degree in the U.S. at the end of autumn quarter 2012, so that one quarter of the U.S. study falls within the 5-year window, that will suffice.
What documents can be submitted with a J-1 Request to show that someone has been working and living in the U.S. for at least two years in the past five years?
Documents to prove that someone has been working and living in the U.S. for at least two years can include:
- Paystubs (the last received and one from at least 2 years before then);
- A letter from the employer verifying the period of employment and showing that this employment physically occurred within the U.S.;
- A detailed curriculum vitae showing the period of employment in the U.S. and responsibilities in the position listed.
What option is available if someone does not have the required English language proficiency for J status?
If the individual is eligible for another immigration status, if it is in the best interest of the University to bring the individual here, and if the unit is willing to sponsor the individual in that status (in light of policy constraints, cost, time line, administrative resources, regulatory requirements for maintenance of status, etc.), another immigration status can be obtained to bring the individual to the University. OIA will advise accordingly.
In the case of an interview, who will pay?
The Chicago Language Center will bill the cost for interviews ($50 each) to the department. The department is free to recover the expense from the J status holder based on policy each department will develop. Some departments may choose to absorb the cost, while others may choose to recover the expense from each J status holder. Others may pay for some classifications of J status holders, e.g. postdoctoral scholars, but not for others. The only distinction not permissible is one based on nationality. For departments with large J status populations, it is also recommended not to make the determination on a case-by-case basis.
How does this requirement compare to our peers?
The language requirement for J status holders applies across the U.S. and institutions have created a variety of instruments to apply it. Some of our peers in the IvyPlus group require higher minimum proficiency levels than the University of Chicago. The Chicago Language Center is a unique resource, however, and allows us to conduct the interview process in a welcoming, professional manner in line with University policies and standards.
Questions regarding this requirement should be directed to OIA's Director.