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Do you meet the English requirement for an Australian visa?

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So you know what visa you need to apply for, everything is lined up to lodge your application, until you realise you need to meet a certain minimum requirement for English. Most Australian visas, especially work visas and skilled visas require a minimum level of English, and they are all different, even sometimes within the same visa subclass. This article will briefly discuss the different English language levels for the different visa subclasses and how you can satisfy this requirement.

Which English Language tests can I sit?

Contrary to what most people think, IELTS is no longer the only test that you can undertake to prove your English language ability for an Australian visa application. There are other tests that might be easier and quicker to prove your English language ability. IELTS has been the main English language test to prove eligibility for English Language requirement for a long time, but now the Department of Immigration recognises alternative tests that you can undertake.

The English Language tests you can sit include:

  1. IELTS – International English Language Testing System
  • This is the most commonly known test. It has two modules: The Academic and the General training module and you can sit any of these two modules for visa purposes. You might need to sit the Academic test for DIBP other purposes such as skills assessment or to be registered as a certain profession.
  1. Occupational English Test
  • This test is relevant to medical and health professionals only and is the only one that allows visa applicants to provide OET results achieved in more than one test- of course limits apply.
  1. TOEFL Internet Based Test (TOFEL iBT)
  • This test is an internet based test which might be convenient to undertake for that reason.
  1. PTE Pearson Test of English (Academic)
  • This test is a computer-based test that you need to undertake at one of the testing centres. The results are usually released quickly.
  1. Cambridge English:
  • This test is only acceptable if it was taken on or after 1 January 2015. This test is also known as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and can be taken on paper or computer.

Most tests have four components: listening, reading, speaking and writing. You will need to achieve a minimum result in each of the components to meet the right level of English. There are preparation courses that you can undertake before sitting the exam for better results and you can also sit more than one exam until you achieve your required results.

English Levels

There are five different levels of English that you can meet: superior, proficient, competent, vocational and functional. Each level of English can be met by meeting a minimum score in each band of an English language test. The levels below are scores for IELTS if you undertake another test check with us what results you need.

  • Superior English: That’s the highest level of English and mainly harder to achieve. It requires a minimum score of 8 in each band of an IELTS test or equivalent in one of the above tests.
  • Proficient English: that level of English is still quite high. It requires a minimum score of 7 in each band of the IELTS or equivalent in another test.
  • Competent English: this level of English is relevant for General Skilled migration and Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and Regional sponsored migration scheme (RSMS)- direct entry. To have competent English, you will need a minimum score of 6 in each band of the IELTS or equivalent in a another test.
  • Vocational English: you need to have vocational English to meet the threshold for ENS/RSMS- Transitional Stream. Vocational English requires a minimum score of 5 in each band of the IELTS or equivalent in a another test.
  • Functional English: requires an average of 4.5 in IELTS or equivalent in a another test. Secondary applicants in certain permanent visa applications need to show functional English.

When a minimum score in each of the separate band is required, a higher average score will not be enough to meet the requirement for a certain level of English.

Who needs to sit a test?

If you are applying for a work visa (Subclass 457) visa, Skilled Migration (Subclass 189, 190, 489), or Employer Sponsorship (Subclass 186) or under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Subclass 187), you will most likely need a test, unless you are exempt.

If you hold a passport from Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States or Ireland, you might be exempt from sitting an English Language test. For skilled migration and to increase your points you might choose to sit an English test. Note that you cannot claim any points for skilled migration at this basis.

There also other exemptions including if you studied in English in a secondary and/or a higher education.

Will my partner and children need to sit a test?

If you are the main applicant (primary applicant) in an application for permanent residency and not for temporary visas, your adult dependents (Over the age of 18) including your partner and children over 18 might need to prove that they have functional English. Functional English is the minimum level of English being the equivalent of a 4.5 average in an IELTS test. There also other ways of proving functional English including undertaking studies in English. If a secondary applicant does not have functional English, they will have to pay a second application of charge of about $4,890 per person. This is only payable at the time of decision.

How long is my test valid for?

Usually tests are valid for three years. For functional English, normally the test need to be undertaken less than 12 months before lodging the application or at the time of processing the application.

We recommend you seek legal advice before relying on your test outcome to support a visa application.

Useful tips if English language is required for your visa:

  • Some visas require English language ability to be established at the time you lodge your application and some at the time your application is decided.
  • Subclass 457 work visas can waive the English requirement if you earn above a certain amount, currently being $96,400 as a base annual salary.
  • We understand from participants that some English tests are easier than others.
  • Generally, you can re-sit the same test or a different until you achieve the required score.
  • Seek legal advice before lodging your application.

About the authors

This article was written by Marial Daniel, a solicitor and a registered migration agent (MARN: 1575322) of Teleo Immigration Specialists.

Teleo has successfully represented thousands of applicants over the past 10 years, including complex matters, visa cancellations and review applications.

The director of Teleo Immigration Specialists, Dr Etienne Hugo (MARN: 0004435) has over 17 years of Australian immigration experience and is one of only 35 accredited specialists immigration lawyers in New South Wales. Etienne is admitted as a lawyer in NSW and also the High Court of Australia. He was awarded both his BLC and LLB degrees with distinction and subsequently completed a LLD (Doctor of Law degree) from the University of Pretoria. He obtained his Immigration Law certification from UTS with distinction. Dr Hugo is a Fellow of the Migration Institute of Australia and regularly presents papers on Immigration Law. He has also taught at ANU in the graduate diploma for Immigration since 2006.

If you wish to seek advice or apply for an Australian visa, please contact us on reception@teleo.com.au

DISCLAIMER: Immigration law is complex and is subject to constant regulatory and policy change by the Department of Immigration. The information provided here may therefore be out-dated and no longer accurate. The information provided above is a general guide only – it is not tailored for your specific circumstances or immigration purposes and you must under no circumstances rely on this information for immigration planning or the lodgement of an application with the Australian government or related bodies. In order to ensure your eligibility is accurately assessed and to allow for tactical decision making that would best suit your desired immigration outcome, it is essential that you consult with a capable immigration advisor registered with the relevant Law Society and/or OMARA. We direct new client enquiries to schedule an initial consultation with our office – email: reception@teleo.com.au. During an initial consultation we have the opportunity to obtain a complete set of facts that will allow us to explore all the available options. Another reason we engage clients within the context of an initial consultation is to protect our firm from potential professional liability which may flow from providing a brief, unconsidered opinion. As a paying client you/ us have the benefit of professional indemnity insurance. Liability limited by a scheme approved under the Professional Standards Legislation.

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