Meeting the English language requirement is a key aspect for visa grant in the skilled visa class. The minimum competency level that is required will depend on which visa you are applying for and can cover aspects such as your country of passport/Citizenship, achieving a minimum score in a specified English test, or completing a specified period of study in English.

If you are required to complete an English test, the date of the test is also an important factor to consider as time limits apply for visa application purposes. Note that an English language requirement may also apply to visa dependents, however this is generally at a lower English competency level than for the primary applicant and can be satisfied with payment of an additional fee before visa grant as an alternative.

In this article, we outline the English language requirements that apply to skilled visas and the documentary evidence that needs to be provided to demonstrate that you meet this requirement. It is also important to note that before you apply for any visa, it is vital that you are fully informed about all requirements for visa grant, including the English language requirements, and ensure that you address each requirement in your application with the required documentary evidence. This will give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Otherwise, you risk a visa refusal and/or unnecessary processing delays.

General Skilled Migration (GSM)

The GSM visa programme comprises the following visas:

  • Skilled (Independent) subclass 189 Visa
  • Skilled (Nominated) subclass 190 Visa
  • Skilled (Regional) subclass 489 Visa

The subclass 189 and 190 visas are both permanent residence visas whereas the subclass 489 visa is a temporary visa which may provide a pathway to permanent residence after 2 years. For each of these visas subclasses, the primary applicant is required to achieve a competent level of English.

This can be demonstrated by meeting one of the following:

  1. If you hold a valid passport issued by the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland and you are a citizen of that country;
  2. If you complete an English test and attain the specified minimum results as listed below
English TestMinimum Result required
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)Achieve a score of at least 6 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing)
Occupational English Test (OET)Achieve a score of at least ‘B’ in each of the four test components
Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT)Achieve the following minimum test scores in each of the four test components: 12 for listening, 13 for reading, 21 for writing and 18 for speaking
Pearson Test of English (PTE) AcademicAchieve a test score of at least 50 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing)
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) testAchieve a test score of at least 169 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing)

 

Timing of the English test is an important factor for visa grant eligibility as it must have been completed within 3 years of receipt of an invitation to apply for the visa. You should therefore plan ahead and leave yourself sufficient time to comply with this requirement.

Additional English language requirements may also apply to the subclass 190 and 489 visas, which require sponsorship by a State or Territory Government. These requirements can vary for each State and Territory and can also depend on which occupation you are applying for. It is important to check this information with the relevant Government authority before you lodge your nomination application, otherwise you risk having your State Sponsorship application refused.

It is important to note that the English language requirements set out above are the minimum competency levels that are required to meet the visa application eligibility requirements. But they do also serve another purpose:  your English language competency level is a relevant factor when it comes to calculating your points score (note that skilled visas under the GSM programme require you to achieve a minimum score in the points test as part of the visa eligibility requirements). Achieving the minimum results outlined above will not result in any additional points, however scoring above this level can add points to your test score and may therefore be beneficial to your application. For further information about the points test we would recommend that you make the proper further enquires to ensure that you are fully informed about this aspect before you lodge your application to give yourself the best chance of a successful outcome.

Note that dependants may be required to meet an English language requirement (discussed later in this article).

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS)

The subclass 482 visa is a temporary employer sponsored visa which allows you to live and work in Australia for up to a period of either 2 or 4 years, depending on your occupation. In some cases, it may also provide a pathway to permanent residence after 3 years if you meet certain requirements at that time.

This visa comprises the following streams:

  • Short-term stream, if the nominated occupation is included in the Short-term Skilled Occupation list (STSOL);
  • Medium-term stream, if the nominated occupation is included in the Medium-term Skilled Occupation list (MTSOL);
  • Labour agreement stream, which requires the sponsoring employer to enter into a labour agreement with the Department.

The English language requirement that applies will depend on the stream that you apply for, as set out below.

 

Short-term stream

English TestMinimum Result required
IELTSAchieve an overall band score of at least 5.0 with a score of at least 4.5 in each of the test components
OETAchieve a score of at least ‘B’ in each of the four test components
OEFL iBTAchieve a total score of at least 35 with a score of at least 3 for each of listening and reading test components, and a score of at least 12 for each of the speaking and writing test components
PTE AcademicAchieve an overall test score of at least 36 with a score of at least 30 in each of the test components
Advanced CAE testAchieve  an overall test score of at least 154 with a score of at least 147 in each of the test components

 

Medium-term stream

English TestMinimum Result required
IELTSAchieve an overall band score of at least overall band score of at least 5.0 with a score of at least 5 in each of the test components
OETAchieve a score of at least ‘B’ in each of the four test components
TOEFL iBTAchieve a total score of at least 35 with a score of at least 4 for each of the listening and reading test components, and a score of at least 14 for each of the speaking and writing test components
PTE AcademicAchieve an overall test score of at least 36 with a score of at least 36 in each of the test components
Advanced CAE testAchieve an overall test score of at least 154 with a score of at least 154 in each of the test components

 

Note that the minimum English test score required may be at a higher level where you are required to hold a registration, license or membership to work in the nominated occupation in Australia. This is determined by the registration authority applicable to your occupation.

Also note that the English test must have been completed within 3 years of lodging the visa application.

Labour Agreement stream

The required English language competency will be set out in the labour agreement of the sponsoring employer.

Exemptions

An English test is not required in the following cases:

  1. If you hold a valid passport issued by the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland and you are a citizen of that country
  2. If you have completed at least five years of full-time study in a secondary or higher education institution where this was conducted in English
  3. If you are nominated for an occupation to be performed at a diplomatic or consular mission of another country or an Office of the Authorities of Taiwan located in Australia
  4. If you are employed by an offshore business and will be sponsored either by the business or an associated entity, and the position has guaranteed annual earnings of at least $96,400

Note that visa dependants are not required to meet an English language requirement.

Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)

The ENS visa programme is a permanent residence employer nominated visa class comprising the subclass 186 and 187 visas. Each of these visa subclasses has three streams:

  • Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) – this requires you to hold a subclass 482 visa and to have worked for your nominated employer full-time for at least 3 years (note there are other specified requirements);
  • Direct entry – this applies if you do not qualify for the TRT stream
  • Labour Agreement – this applies if the nominating employer has entered into a labour agreement with the Government

If you apply for either the subclass 186 or 187 visa under the TRTS or Direct Entry streams, you will be required to achieve a competent level of English.

This can be demonstrated by meeting one of the following:

  1. If you hold a valid passport issued by the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland and you are a citizen of that country
  2. If you complete an English test and attain the specified minimum results as listed below
English TestMinimum Result required
IELTSAchieve a score of at least 6 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing)
OETAchieve a score of at least ‘B’ in each of the four test components
TOEFL iBTAchieve the following minimum test scores in each of the four test components: 12 for listening, 13 for reading, 21 for writing and 18 for speaking
PTE AcademicAchieve a test score of at least 50 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing)
Advanced CAE testAchieve a test score of at least 169 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing)

 

Note that if you apply under the TRTS stream, you are exempt from the above if you have completed at least five years of full-time study in a secondary or higher education institution where this was conducted in English

For the labour agreement stream, the requirements set out above will generally apply, unless a different English requirement is specified in the agreement.

Note that if you are exempt from the English language requirement, you must still demonstrate a functional level of English for visa grant. This is a lower competency level than the requirements outlined above and can be satisfied with payment of an additional fee before visa grant as an alternative (see below).

Dependants

If you apply for one of the visas listed below, each of your dependants who are also applying for the visa and who are 18 years of age or older will be subject to an English language requirement:

  • Skilled (Independent) subclass 189 Visa
  • Skilled (Nominated) subclass 190 Visa
  • Skilled (Regional) subclass 489 Visa
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) subclass 186 visa
  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) subclass 187 visa

Your dependent/s will need to achieve a functional level of English, which can be demonstrated by meeting one of the following:

  1. Hold a valid passport issued by the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland and you are a citizen of that country
  2. Completed at least five years of secondary education in an institution in or outside Australia conducted in English
  3. Completed at least one year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma in an institution in Australia and conducted in English
  4. Completed a degree, a higher degree, a diploma or a trade certificate that required at least two years of full-time study or training in an institution in or outside Australia and conducted in English.
  5. Completed all years of primary education and at least three years of secondary education in an educational institution in or outside Australia and conducted in English
  6. An assessment of functional English from a service provider of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) for eligible visa holders in Australia
  7. Complete an English test and attain the specified minimum results as listed below
English TestMinimum Result required
IELTSAchieve an average band score of at least 4.5 based on the four test components of speaking, reading, listening and writing
TOEFL iBTAchieve a total band score of at least 32 based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening
PTE AcademicAchieve an overall band score of at least 30 based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening
Advanced CAE testAchieve an overall band score of at least 147 based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening

 

The English test must have been completed within 12 months of lodging your application.

Where the above evidence cannot be provided, it my also be acceptable in some cases to assess an applicant’s English competency level based on an interview with the Department.

Note that you also have the option to pay a second instalment of the visa application fee, payable before grant of the visa, as an alternative to your dependent/s satisfying the English language requirement. The current fee payable is between $4,885 and 4,890, depending on the visa class which you apply for.

The functional English requirement also applies to you if you lodge an application for either a subclass 186 or 187 visa application and you are exempt from the English language requirement (as per the discussion noted above). In this case, you must demonstrate that you have achieved a functional level of English. As an alternative, you can pay a second instalment of the visa application fee of $9,800 before visa grant.

 

In conclusion, we note that the above provides an overview only of the English language requirements for skilled visas. Given the highly complex nature of the migration laws, and the fact that every individual case is different, we recommend that you engage a registered migration agent as they will be able to provide you with detailed advice about these requirements and how they apply to you. This will enable you to be fully informed before you lodge your application and avoid unnecessary processing delays or a potential refusal.