1 August 2018

English Language requirements for a UK visa

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An applicant applying for entry clearance, further leave to remain, settlement or citizenship in the UK is required to meet the English language requirements as set out in the Immigration Rules.

How do I meet the language requirements?

There are 4 ways in which you can show you meet the English language requirement. These are by:

  • being a national of a majority English speaking country; or
  • passing an English language test as detailed in this guidance; or
  • holding a degree which was taught in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s
  • degree or above; or
  • you have already shown you have met the requirement in a previous application.

Visa categories exempt from the language test

However, there are certain exemptions which excuse the following categories from meeting the requirements:

Which IELTS test do I need for UK visa

The IELTS test you take and the score you need will depend on both your visa requirements or the requirements of the institution where you plan to study.

The UK Home Office’s list of Secure English Language Tests (often referred to as SELT tests) lists the English language qualification/s required for each category of visa applications to the UK.

Visa description Minimum CEFR level required Skills IELTS test and minimum score required overall and in each skill1
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa B1 Reading, Writing Speaking and Listening IELTS for UKVI – 4.0 overall, and in each of the four skills
innovator visa B2 Reading, Writing Speaking and Listening IELTS for UKVI – 5.5 overall, and in each of the four skills
Start-Up visa B2 Reading, Writing Speaking and Listening IELTS for UKVI – 5.5 overall, and in each of the four skills
Skilled Worker Visa B1 Reading, Writing Speaking, and Listening IELTS for UKVI – 4.0 overall, and in each of the four skills
Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa A1 Speaking and Listening IELTS Life Skills at A1 – Pass

IELTS for UKVI2 – 4.0 in Speaking and Listening

Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa B2 Reading, Writing Speaking, and Listening IELTS for UKVI – 5.5 overall, and in each of the four skills
Tier 4 (General) student visa – below degree level and pre-sessional courses B1 Reading, Writing Speaking, and Listening IELTS for UKVI – 4.0 overall, and in each of the four skills
Student visa – degree level and above B2 Reading, Writing Speaking, and Listening IELTS/IELTS for UKVI3 – 5.5 overall, and in each of the four skills
Family route

A1 Speaking and Listening IELTS Life Skills at A1 – Pass

IELTS for UKVI2 – 4.0 in Speaking and Listening

Family route (extension)

A2 * Speaking and Listening IELTS Life Skills at A2 – Pass
IELTS for UKVI– 4.0 in Speaking and Listening
Indefinite leave to remain (to settle) or citizenship B1 Speaking and Listening IELTS Life Skills at B1 – Pass

IELTS for UKVI – 4.0 in Speaking and Listening

*Please note, IELTS Life Skills A2 is only available in the UK.

Professions which require English Language test

Some UK professional bodies, like the General Medical Council, require foreign-trained members to demonstrate further English language skills before practising in the UK.

From 1 October 2016, London’s private hire drivers from countries that do not predominantly speak English will be required to pass a B1 level written English language exam to receive or renew their licence.

Exemptions from the English language requirement for UK visa

Applicants who have a degree from a UK institution will automatically fulfil the English language requirement. If taught in another country, and the applicant can prove that it is equivalent or at a higher standard than a UK bachelor’s degree and provide evidence that the degree was taught in English, the applicant will fulfil the requirements.

National of an English speaking country

Applicants who are nationals of majority English speaking countries and those who have obtained a degree taught in English will not be required to undertake the separate English test.

The acceptable majority English speaking counties listed in the Immigration Rules are:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • the United States of America

Other exemptions

You will not need to prove your knowledge of English or take a test if:

  • you’re over 65
  • you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting the requirement

About the Author

A talented and dedicated public relations professional, Riaz, has more than 14 years of experience helping organisations communicate more effectively. He has developed strategic communications plans garnered extensive media coverage, produced marketing materials coordinated special events, and hosted other communications activities.

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