Although there is huge multicultural diversity in Australia’s population, the official language is English. This means that visa applicants need to demonstrate a level of English language ability, or pay a fee to cover the cost of English tuition once in Australia.
Being able to speak English assures the Australian Government that you will be able to manage living in Australia – for work, travel or simple everyday activities such as buying something in a shop. The better your English, the less reliant you will be on government resources.
Levels of ability
English language ability is assessed at various levels:
Different visas have different requirements, but all are based on the results of one of the recognised English language tests.
The English language tests
To demonstrate English language proficiency, visa applicants must undergo one of the English language tests approved by the Australian Government.
Tests have four components: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Tests must have been completed within three years prior to a visa application being made (except for the CAE test).
To demonstrate PROFICIENT English, the approved tests are:
- IELTS: Applicants much achieve a score of at least seven in each area.
- OET: Applicants must score at least a ‘B’ for each component.
- TOEFL iBT: The following minimum scores are required:
- 24 for listening.
- 24 for reading.
- 27 for writing.
- 23 for speaking.
- PTE: Applicants must score a minimum of 65 for each component.
- CAE: Applicants must score a minimum of 185 for each component. The test must have been undertaken after January 1, 2015 and prior to the application being made.
Taking the test
The method of taking the test varies. For example, an IELTS test is a written examination that can be undertaken at specified test centres around the world. Tests are offered up to four times per month. The TOEFL iBT test is internet-based, but you must still attend a test centre to complete the test. It offers 50 test dates per year at various global locations.
English and skilled visas
Skilled visas require English language ability to be demonstrated. For example, the popular 457 visa for employer-sponsored applicants requires applicants to have a functional level of English language ability.
However, skilled visas such as the 189 visa are points based. This visa is an attractive option to many applicants as it doesn’t require employer sponsorship and allows permanent residency.
To be eligible to be invited to apply for the 189 visa, you must achieve at least a total of 60 points in areas including age, skills, qualifications and English language ability. Achieving proficiency in your English language test gives you 10 points (and 20 points for superior ability). These points can be crucial in meeting visa requirements.
English and student visas
English language requirements vary depending on what course and what level of study is being undertaken. You will need to provide proof of your English language ability by undertaking one of the English language tests.
Some Australian universities and other educational institutions have separate English language requirements, so you should check with the relevant institution that you meet their requirements.
Should your English need to improve, there are courses available that allow you to stay in Australia on a student visa while you study English. This study requires a visa of its own.
Demonstrating English language skills is a crucial aspect of most visa applications. If you can show proficiency, you may find more visa options available to you. An experienced migration agent in Australia can assist you with testing requirements and the visa application process.