J-1 English Language Requirement

Exchange Visitors in J-1 status are required to meet the regulatory English language requirement.  

If you are not exempt from this requirement, the University offers its own Academic English Proficiency Assessment (AEPA) through a teleconferenced interview.  Your department will inform you whether any documentation is needed and whether the AEPA will be required. For helpful videos that describe what academic English oral proficiency means at various levels and what it takes to reach higher levels please visit the AEPA website

Please do not schedule a standardized English language test such as TOEFL or IELTS.  Such tests are expensive and can be difficult to schedule and the University's own process is friendlier and more convenient, takes far less time, is less expensive, and produces more reliable results.  

Your department will submit one of the below documents to prove that you meet the English language requirement:

  • A TOEFL speaking score of 18 or higher, an IELTS speaking score of 6 or higher, or a PTE speaking score of 50 or higher (only the speaking score is considered);
  • A transcript showing that within the past 5 years you have earned a degree or attended an accredited academic or English language school in the U.S., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, or English medium university in Canada or South Africa;
  • Documentation showing that within the past 5 years you have lived and been employed for at least 2 years in the U.S., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, or English speaking provinces of Canada or South Africa;
  • The results of the AEPA, conducted by the University's Language Center, showing a proficiency level of "Basic" or better.

The requirement is met if any part of the enrollment/employment falls within the past 5 years.


  • Natives or legal permanent residents of Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and English speaking provinces of Canada and South Africa are exempt from the requirement.
  • Current J-1 status holders who are transferring their status to the University of Chicago from another institution in the U.S. presumably have met the requirement already.

Visiting scholars, who come to the University for a wide range of activities, often have the required English language skills but do not fall within the categories listed above.  The host department at the University of Chicago will consult with the Office of International Affairs (OIA) to determine what documentation can be provided in conjunction with requesting a Form DS-2019 for J-1 status. If a postdoctoral scholar, staff researcher, or other employee of the University who would typically obtain J-1 status cannot meet the English language requirement, OIA will advise the department on other employment-based status options.