English Language Requirement for Skilled & Employer Nominated Visas
If you are applying for Skilled Migration, you will need to prove your English language ability. The required level of English depends on the visa subclass you are applying for and there are 4 different levels of English which may be relevant:
- Superior English: 20 points in GSM points test
- Proficient English: 10 points in GSM points test
- Competent English: threshold requirement for General Skilled Migration and ENS/RSMS Direct Entry
- Vocational English: threshold requirement for ENS/RSMS Temporary Residence Transition Stream
- Functional English: for secondary applicants seeking to avoid paying the English Language Charge
Timing of English
The timing of the English language requirement depends on the type of visa being applied for:
- General Skilled Migration: time of invitation
- RSMS and ENS visas: time of application
As it can take some time to obtain a booking for a test and to receive the results, you may wish to plan to take the English test well ahead of time.
Validity of English Tests
Tests conducted up to 3 years prior to lodgement of an application will be accepted by the Department of Immigration.
The only exception to this is for functional English – this requires testing to have been done at most 12 months before lodgement.
Acceptable English Tests
The IELTS test / IELTS Australia /computer-delivered IELTS is the most common way of evidencing English language ability. Either the Academic or General Training versions of the test are acceptable to the Department of Immigration, but some skills assessing authorities require applicants to sit the Academic version. You will need to obtain a minimum score in each band of the IELTS (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking) in a single sitting.
The Occupational English Test (OET) is also accepted as evidence of proficient and superior levels of English. The OET is only appropriate for medical and allied health professionals.
The Pearson Academic Test of English (Pearson PTE) and TOEFL Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT) are now accepted for all skilled subclasses. Most state and territory governments also recognise these tests, as do some skills assessment authorities.
The Cambridge Test of English is also accepted from January 2015.
You can read more about the pros and cons of each English test in our article here.
Vocational English is the required level to obtain ENS and RSMS visa through the Temporary Residence Transitional stream for people who have held a 457 visa for 2 years with the employer.
Required scores to establish Vocational English are as follows:
For most skilled visas, you will need to show at least Competent English to meet the threshold criteria. If you hold a passport from one of the following 5 countries, you can establish competent English without completing an English test:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
Otherwise, you would need to complete a recognised English language test and obtain the following score:
Competent English gives you 0 points in the Skilled Migration Points Test, but is an essential requirement to be able to lodge a skilled visa.
If you demonstrate proficient English, this will give you 10 points for English language ability.
Even native English speakers must undertake English language testing to obtain points for proficient English or higher.
Scores required for Proficient English are:
If you demonstrate superior English, this will give the maximum of 20 points for English language ability. Minimum scores for Superior English are:
If your spouse or partner has less than functional English, then you would need to pay the “English Education Charge” to cover English language tuition in applying for skilled migration.
You can show you have functional English ability by providing evidence of one of the following:
- Completion of a degree, higher degree, diploma or trade certificate that required at least 2 years of study in English medium
- Completion of all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education in English medium; or
- Completion of at least 5 years of secondary education in English medium; or
- Scoring at least 4.5 averaged over the four components of the IELTS test within the 12 months before application, or during processing; or
- Completion in Australia of at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma in English medium.
- In some circumstances, functional English can be established via interview
You can also demonstrate functional English by completing an English test and scoring as follows:
|Test component||Average across test components only|
Applying for migration to Australia can be complex, so we recommend that you book a consultation to check your likely eligibility for immigration to Australia before you proceed with an application.
The TOEFL iBT is taken via the internet. There are more than 50 test dates each year, and there is a wide range of test locations throughout the world.
The test takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete has the following structure:
- Reading: 60-80 Minutes
- Listening: 120-180 Minutes
- Speaking: 20 Minutes
- Writing: 50 Minutes
TOEFL scores are available approximately 10 days after the test date. They can be viewed online, and a hard copy is sent approximately 13 days after the test date. You can specify recipients for your scores to be sent to via an online facility, but this cannot be changed after you have taken the test.
The current cost to undertake the TOEFL iBT in Australia is $240, well under the current cost of IELTS ($330).
The Pearson Test of English Academic is structured as follows:
- Speaking and writing: 77 – 93 minutes
- Reading: 32 – 41 minutes
- Listening: 45 – 57 minutes
Overall, the test takes 3 hours. Results are available within 5 working days, and can be accessed by logging into an online account. It is possible to forward results to institutions via the online account also. This compares favourably with IELTS – results currently take 2 weeks to become available, and there is no online account facility for test takers.
The cost to do the PTE Academic test in Australia is $330 – exactly the same as IELTS. Locations and test dates are less extensive than the TOEFL.
Which Visas Will Be Affected?
The new English tests will apply for the following types of visa:
- General Skilled Migration, including Skilled Independent Subclass 189, Skilled Nominated Subclass 190, Skilled Regional Sponsored Provisional Subclass 489 and Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visas.
- ENS Subclass 186
- RSMS Subclass 187
- Business Migration
- Distinguished Talent Subclass 124
- Former Resident Subclass 151
- TOEFL: readily available, inexpensive
- Pearson: results ready in 5 days, ability to forward results to various recipients after test date
- OET: no requirement to sit all 4 modules on the same date, results from different dates accepted by Immigration