English Language Proficiency Verification

The U.S. Department of State requires that J-1 Exchange Visitors be proficient in the English language in order to ensure scholars’ academic success as well as their well-being and safety while in the United States. The department must document the method used to assess English language proficiency prior to submitting a J-1 visa sponsorship request.

Acceptable evidence to prove English language proficiency:

  • Proof of citizenship, e.g. passport ID page, from a country where English is an official language
  • Official diploma from an academic institution where English is the language of instruction
  • Results of a recognized English language test (test results are valid for 2 years):
    • Internet-based TOEFL (minimum score of 79)
    • Paper-based TOEFL (minimum score of 550)
    • IELTS (minimum score of 6.5)
    • PTE Academic (minimum score of 53)
    • Cambridge Assessment English (minimum score of 180)
    • TOEIC (minimum score 643)
  • Evidence of previous successful J-1 exchange programs, e.g. copies of previous Forms DS-2019 or a letter from the previous J-1 visa sponsor
  • A phone, video conference or in-person interview
    • The interview should be conducted by a person from the Columbia Department who has the credentials to assess the scholar's English language proficiency.
    • The date of the interview must be documented.
    • The goal of the questioning is to engage a scholar in a meaningful conversation, rather than have the scholar respond with just a phrase or a sentence. Sample questions for an interview for assessing English language proficiency:
      • What is the topic of your research? Tell me about your research methodology.
      • What are some things you are doing to prepare for your program in the U.S.?
      • What do you do in your free time? How did you become interested in that? How might that change when you come to New York/Columbia University?
      • What are your plans after you finish your exchange program at Columbia University?
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