English Proficiency Requirements

International scholars who are applying for J-1 Exchange Visitor visas must comply with the U.S. State Department requirements to demonstrate English language proficiency that is sufficient: (1) to participate successfully in their exchange programs; and (2) to function on a day-to-day basis in the United States [22 CFR §62.10(a)(2)].

The host faculty must verify an applicant’s English language proficiency through a recognized English language test by a signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school, or through a documented interview conducted by the sponsor (either in-person or by video conference). 

If the host faculty member cannot firmly establish sufficient English proficiency, then it is not appropriate to request a DS-2019 for the J-1 scholar, as they are not eligible for a J-1 status.

Ways To Verify English Proficiency

Waived By Virtue of Permanent Residence In One Of The Exempt Countries

If the scholar is a permanent resident of one of the exempt listed countries, they are eligible to be waived from the English proficiency requirement. In that case, the host department must produce a letter on the department letterhead, that states that the scholar is exempt from the English proficiency requirement since they are a permanent resident of <insert country name>. This document/letter should be uploaded while filling the Google form for requesting a DS-2019. 

Degrees Earned From An English-medium Institution Of Higher Education

If a scholar has earned a degree (BA, BS, MA, or PhD) from an English-medium institution of higher education, they may also be eligible for an exemption from the English proficiency requirement. In this case, scholars must provide a transcript or diploma from an internationally-recognized institution of higher education indicating that an English-medium degree program was completed.

For institutions located outside the United States, the transcript should confirm that English was the primary language of instruction for the degree program completed. Completed degrees in which only some courses were conducted in English, or degrees earned exclusively through online coursework, cannot be used as evidence of English language proficiency.

Internationally-recognized Test of English

Scholars must provide official results from one of the standardized tests below for verification and certification of oral proficiency in English.

Proficiency Tests and Minimum Requirements
Test Name Minimum score required to comply with MTU's English proficiency requirement
TOEFL-iBT (internet-based test Total score 80 (individual score for the Speaking section must be minimum 18)


A Documented Interview Report Conducted By Department's Sponsor

The interview should be conducted and have filled the J-1 English Proficiency: Interview Assessment Report by someone who has the authority to evaluate the scholar's credentials for success in their program. This might include, but is not limited to, the MTU PI/Faculty Sponsor, Director, Dean, Human Resources Personnel, or Program Manager. This individual must be able to justify the scholar's English language ability to the U.S. Department of State. 

Visiting Scholar and Exchange Student Online English Language Assessments

These assessments cost $25 each. A passing proficiency rating is required. For more information about the assessment (including the procedure to schedule it), please visit the Visiting Scholar English language Assessment.

Improving Your English Communication Skills After Coming To Michigan Tech

Scholars may register with the Graduate Language Assessment and Support (GLAS), which is a free program offered by the Graduate School, to help international graduate students improve their English oral communication skills. Through small-group conversations, students gain experience about participating in class discussions, responding to questions, and listening effectively. GLAS coaches work with students to help them better understand US university expectations, and what students and instructors expect from each other in classrooms. Visit the GLAS page for more information and to schedule appointments.

J-2 dependents and community members 18 and older are welcome to participate in GLAS as well. We request that they wait until week 2 of the semester to sign up for a session to make sure we can accommodate all MTU international graduate students who wish to sign up.

J-2 dependents who wish to improve their English communication skills may join the Elaine Bacon Literacy Program. The Program is compiled of individual one-on-one classes as well as conversations with a "conversation partner". Please visit the Elaine Bacon website for scheduling classes and for further information.