English Language Test Requirements for UK Visa Applications

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 25th October 2023

As part of your application for a UK visa or British citizenship application, you may need to prove your knowledge of the English language.

One way you can do this is by taking an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).

english-language-test-requirements-uk-visa

What English Language Test is required for a UK visa?

There are 2 English Language Tests:

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening Test

  • Speaking and Listening Test

These tests are all about making sure that you have the language skills needed to live and communicate effectively in the UK.

You only have to take one of these tests, but which one you need to take depends on which kind of UK visa you are applying for:

Visa Type

Speaking and Listening Test

Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening Test

Citizenship

Health and Care Worker

High Potential Individual

Innovator Founder

International Sportsperson

Minister of Religion

Parent

Partner

Representative of an Overseas Business

Scale-up Worker

Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain)

Skilled Worker

Start-up

Student

English Language Test Levels

Each test has different levels to match the requirement for each type of UK visa. These levels use what is known as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and there are six:

  • A1 (Speaking and Listening)

  • A2 (Speaking and Listening)

  • B1 (Speaking and Listening)

  • B2 (Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing)

  • C1 (Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing)

  • C2 (Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing)

A1 is the lowest level and C2 is the highest.

Speaking and Listening English Language Test requirements

The speaking and listening levels focus on your ability to communicate in words, respond to questions about yourself, and understand spoken English.

The skills they assess include responding to questions about your everyday life, engaging in spoken activities, and listening to short texts and answering questions about them.

Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing Test requirements

The speaking, listening, reading and writing levels test your ability to handle more challenging language contexts in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

You’ll need to show ability at the relevant levels in all of these areas.

The tests also check if you can understand written and spoken English in everyday life, produce written English, and apply your knowledge of the English Language in both speaking and writing.

English Language test results & your Visa Application

If you take levels A1, A2, C1 and C2 levels, you will be given a result of pass or fail.

At B1 and B2 levels, you will be given a result of either pass with merit, pass, or fail.

For your first visa application, you must pass at least level A1. But you can choose to take a higher level test if you want to.

If you pass level B1 or higher, you can use that same test result when you apply for settlement after 5 years, as long as your test is still on the approved list of qualifications and your certificate has not been withdrawn by the test provider.

English language test requirements to extend a UK visa

If you want to apply to extend your visa after 2.5 years and you only took and passed level A1, you will have to pass level A2 or higher.

If you were given an exemption, you’ll have to pass level A1 to apply to extend your visa.

Approved English Language tests and providers

You can only take a SELT with an approved test provider if you want to use your result for your UK visa application.

If you need to take an English Language Test to support your visa application, you should make sure that:

  • Your test is on the approved list

  • You sit your test at an approved location either in the UK or outside of the UK

  • Your test has been awarded in the two years before the date of your application.

Below is a list of current approved providers and their approved test names:

Approved Provider

Approved Test Name

Location

IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration

IELTS for UKVI or IELTS Life Skills

UK + Outside of the UK

LanguageCert

LanguageCert International ESOL SELT

UK + Outside of the UK

Pearson Test of English (PTE)

PTE Academic UKVI or PTE Home

UK + Outside of the UK

Trinity College London

Secure English Language Tests for UKVI - Integrated Skills in English (ISE) or Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)

UK

PSI Services

Skills for English UKVI

Outside of the UK

Everything you need to know about English Language Tests requirements

what-you-need-to-know-english-language-test

Before the test

It is up to you to decide which test to take for the application route you wish to use.

You should book your chosen test directly with one of the approved providers above depending on if you are in the UK or outside of the UK.

If you have a disability or need extra equipment or assistance, you can request this when you book your test.

Bring your identity document to the test location.

Your identity document should match the details you used to book the test. It should also be an original document (not a photocopy) that is current and valid and includes a photograph of you. You won’t be able to take the test without it. For this you could use your passport, UK Biometric Residence Permit, UK Biometric Residence Card, Convention travel document, or Stateless persons’ travel document.

After the test

When you’ve taken the test, your provider will give you a reference number. You should keep this safe as you will need to make your UK visa application.

You don’t need to provide anything else in your application other than the reference number.

Your test result is valid for 2 years from the date the test is awarded.

When you apply for your visa, you should make sure that your English language test certificate is still valid.

Who is exempt from English Language Requirements for Visas?

Individual exemption from English language test requirements

Certain individuals do not have to take an English language test to prove their knowledge of English. This applies to:

  • Children

  • Adults coming to be cared for by a relative

  • Individuals who have been in the UK on a family visa for 5 years who are extending it as a partner or parent

  • Adults over 65

  • Individuals with a physical or mental condition that would prevent them from meeting the requirement.

Countries exempt from English language test requirements for a UK Visa

Nationals of certain countries or territories are also exempt from English language test requirements. These countries or territories are currently:

  • Antigua and Barbuda

  • Australia

  • The Bahamas

  • Barbados

  • Belize

  • British overseas territories

  • Canada

  • Dominica

  • Grenada

  • Guyana

  • Jamaica

  • Malta

  • New Zealand

  • St Kitts and Nevis

  • St Lucia

  • St Vincent and the Grenadines

  • Trinidad and Tobago

  • USA

Academic qualifications exempt from English language test requirements

If you have a degree or academic qualification that was taught or researched in English from a university or college outside the UK, you can prove your knowledge of the English language with either a statement of comparability or a visa and nationality statement, along with the original academic qualification certificate.

To qualify for this exemption your academic qualification must be equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, or Ph.D and it should have been validated by Ectiss, who will give you the appropriate proof.

Generally, if you received your qualification from the following countries, you will need a statement of comparability:

  • Antigua and Barbuda

  • Australia

  • The Bahamas

  • Barbados

  • Belize

  • British overseas territories

  • Canada

  • Dominica

  • Grenada

  • Guyana

  • Jamaica

  • Malta

  • New Zealand

  • St Kitts and Nevis

  • St Lucia

  • St Vincent and the Grenadines

  • Trinidad and Tobago

  • USA

Academic qualifications from other countries will require validation from Ectiss in the form of a visa and nationality statement.

Long term health conditions exempt from English language test requirements

If you have a long-term physical or mental health condition that makes it impossible for you to prove your knowledge of English, you may not have to meet the English language requirement.

If this applies to you, you should ask your doctor to complete a form called: ‘Waiver request for the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirement: medical opinion’.

This form will explain why you should be exempt and how your health condition affects your ability to learn or communicate in English.

When you submit your application, the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) will evaluate your case carefully on a case-by-case basis.

It’s important to provide enough evidence to convince the Home Office that your health condition genuinely affects your ability to learn or communicate in English. Examples of long-term health conditions that may be exempt include being deaf, mute, having a speech impediment, or specific conditions like dysphasia or aphasia, which can make talking difficult.

Exceptional circumstances for exemption from English language test requirements

Some individuals might have ‘exceptional circumstances’ that mean they don’t have to meet the English language requirements.

Unfortunately, there’s no set list of exceptional circumstances but you must have a genuine and compelling reason why you haven’t been able to learn English before coming to the UK.

Alternatively, you should be able to show that it’s not practical or reasonable for you to travel to another country to take an approved English Language Test.

Examples of these kinds of circumstances could be that you:

  • Live in a country with international or internal armed conflict

  • Live in a country that has experienced a humanitarian disaster

  • Have been hospitalised for several months

  • Are a full-time carer of a disabled child who is also applying to come to the UK

  • Are a long-term resident of a country with no approved A1 test provision, and you can’t travel to another country to take a test

It’s important to note that the above list doesn’t cover every exceptional circumstance possible and the reason you provide will be unique to your situation.

legal-help-visa-application

English language test requirements are just one part of the UK visa application.

At Lawhive, we have a large team of experienced immigration solicitors who can help with all types of immigration applications and advise you on exemptions you may qualify for through the process. If you need help with your UK Visa application, please tell us about your case using our simple online enquiry form.

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