With all UK visa applications, there are requirements which the applicant needs to fulfil. One of the requirements for longer-term UK immigration applications is the English language requirement.
In this guide we explain all you need to know about the English language requirement.
English Language Test for UK Visas
One of the requirements of many UK visa applications is the ability to speak English to a certain level. If you are not exempt, you will need to pass a test to prove that you meet the required level of English.
In most cases, an applicant will need to take an English language test if they are applying for a visa lasting longer than 2.5 years. Also, if someone has been living in the UK and wishes to extend their time in the UK to beyond 2.5 years, they will usually need to pass an English language test.
The test which the applicant takes must be one which is a Home Office approved Secure English Language Testing (SELT) provider.
Immigration Routes Which Require English Language Test
The following visas all require the applicant to pass an English language test:
- Further leave to remain applications (Spouse/partner visas and family dependent visas. (A1)
- Further leave to remain visa extensions (A2)
- Indefinite Leave to Remain (B1)
- British citizenship by naturalisation (B1)
- Tier 2 (General) Visa (B1)
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) Visa (B2)
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Visa (A1)
- Innovator Visa (B2)
- Start-up Visa (B2)
- Tier 4 (General) Student Visa (B1)
- Representative of an overseas business (A1)
The different levels of tests are represented by the letter and number. From this list, A1 is the most basic level of English, with B2 being the highest.
Different Types of English Language Tests
There are two different types of tests which a UK visa applicant might need to take. Some of the tests only require proficiency in speaking and listening, whereas others require reading, writing, speaking and listening proficiency.
As mentioned above, there are different levels of tests depending on the visa/immigration application too.
Those applying for one of the following visas will need to complete an English language test in all four abilities:
- Innovator Visa
- Start-up Visa
- Tier 2 (General)
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
- Tier 4 (General)
The following immigration routes only require the applicant to sit a test that assesses speaking and listening:
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
- Representative of an overseas business
- Partners of British residents
- Parents of British residents
- Settlement applications
- Citizenship applications
What do I Need to Know About the English Language Test?
As alluded to above, you can only take SELT tests – all other forms of English tests will not be accepted.
There are four SELT test providers which are approved by the Home Office. They are: Trinity College London, ITELTS SELT Consortium, LanguageCert and Pearson Education Ltd.
Also, keep the following points in mind when booking a test:
- Choose ‘IELTS for UKVI’ rather than ‘IELTS’ for IELTS tests
- Choose ‘Secure English Language Tests for UKVI’ for Trinity tests
- Choose ‘International ESOL SELT for LanguageCert tests
- Choose ‘PTE Academic UKVI’ or ‘PTE Home’ for Pearson Education Ltd.
There are numerous accredited test centres throughout the world, which means that you do not need to be in the UK to take the test. A list of the current approved test centres can be found here. If you are unable to book a test in you chosen area, you should check the availability at other test centres.
If you are in the UK, there are thirteen test centres across the United Kingdom you can choose from.
Tests which are taken in the UK can be accepted in applications made from outside of the UK. Likewise, if your test was taken outside of the UK, you can still use your test result for applications made from within the UK.
In some countries, there will be a very high demand for tests, particularly at certain times of year. It is a good idea to book your test well in advance of the date you are hoping to travel to the UK.
What is Needed on the Day of the Test?
On the day of the test, you will need to provide evidence of your identity at the test point. The only acceptable forms of identification are:
- Travel document
- EU identity card
- Government ID card
- Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- Biometric Registration Card (BRC)
Any document which you provide must be the original and must not have expired. It needs to also include a photograph.
If the Home Office is currently holding your passport, you should get in contact with them to explain your situation and request the return of your passport. It is important to note that the test centre will not accept photocopies of your passport, so you must ensure you have the original document.
If you do not have any of the documents mentioned above, you should get in contact with the Home Office to explore your options.
If you pass the test, you will be given a unique reference number which you will need to quote on your visa application. The number will be used to identify the candidate and verify their results.
Who is Exempt from the English Language Test?
Many people who apply for one of these UK visas will not need to fulfil the English language test requirement.
Firstly, if you are a citizen of one of the following countries, you will not need to fulfil the English language test:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Also, if you have graduated from a course which was taught in English at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, you will be exempt from the English language test requirement.
The other exemptions from the English language requirement are:
- Those aged 65 or over
- Anyone suffering from a long-term physical or mental condition
- Victims of domestic violence whose partner is a British citizen or has settlement status in the UK
- Adult dependant aged between 18 and 64
- Partner or spouse of a person who has died who was a British citizen or had settlement status in the UK