December 14, 2018

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New J-1 Visa Provisions Effective January 5, 2015

In October 2014, the Department of State (“DOS”) amended Subpart A of the J exchange visitor regulations. These new regulations go into effect in 2015 and apply to all exchange visitor programs and program categories. There are two primary changes that will directly affect J-1 applicants:

  1. New testing and documentation requirements for English language proficiency (effective January 5, 2015)

  2. Increased insurance coverage amounts (effective May 15, 2015)

Additional rule changes will affect the sponsor organizations and their management of J-1 programs.

English Language Proficiency

Currently, J-1 exchange program sponsors are required to determine that participants possess “sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in his or her program.” However, the rule did not previously specify how this evaluation should or would be accomplished. The amended rule added language stating that “an objective measurement” must be used to evaluate English proficiency. In addition, the participant’s English language proficiency must be at a level to allow the participant “to function on a day-to-day basis.”

The Department of State clarified that the objective measurements accepted include:

  • Recognized English test

  • Signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school; or

  • A documented interview conducted by the sponsor either in-person or by videoconferencing, or by telephone if videoconferencing is not a viable option

Sponsors must also retain documentation regarding how they determined English language proficiency for potential review by the DOS.

Increased Insurance Coverage

The Department of State increased the amount of insurance coverage program participants are required to maintain per the current rule at 22 CFR 62.14. This rule change does not come into effect until May 15, 2015. The old and new amounts are as follows:


Current Amount

Final Rule Amount (5/15/15)

Medical benefits



Repatriation of remains



Medical evacuation



Deductible per accident or illness



Danielle Lifrieri contributed to this article.

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About this Author

Susan J. Cohen, Immigration Attorney, Mintz Levin Law Firm
Member and Chairperson of the Immigration Section

Susan is the founder and Chair of the firm’s Immigration Practice, which is composed of 10 attorneys and 15 immigration specialists and assistants who service the immigration needs both of Mintz Levin’s existing corporate and individual clients, and of new clients who choose the firm precisely for its knowledge in the field of immigration and nationality law. Mintz Levin also is committed to handling political asylum cases, most of which are taken on a pro bono basis.

Susan is actively involved in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and has chaired and co-chaired a...