The English language
requirement for UK
visa applications

When making an application for a UK visa or settlement, you may need to prove your knowledge of the English language.

The level of ability you will be required to demonstrate depends on the route you are applying for entry clearance, permission to stay or settlement under. Each route has its own set of eligibility requirements, and the level of English language required of an applicant is set out in the rules for the relevant route, under the heading ‘English language requirement’. Detailed information on how the requirement can be met are set out in Appendix English Language in the Immigration Rules.

The levels come from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. There are four components that are tested: reading, writing, speaking and listening. You can find out more about the CEFR levels on the assessment grid.

Which routes include an English language requirement?

You will need to satisfy the English language requirement if you are applying under any of the following routes:

  • Student
  • Skilled Worker
  • Representative of an Overseas Business
  • T2 Minister of Religion
  • International Sportsperson
  • UK Ancestry (Settlement only)
  • Start-up
  • Innovator
  • Global Talent (Settlement only)
  • Temporary Work – International Agreement (Settlement only)
  • Domestic Worker in a Private Household (Settlement only)
  • Appendix Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (Settlement only)
  • High Potential Individual
  • Settlement family life after a qualifying period of 10 years
  • Private Life (Settlement only)
  • Scale-up (from 22 August 2022)

How an applicant can show they meet the English language requirement

There are several different ways in which an applicant can evidence their knowledge of English. You will satisfy the requirement if:

  • You are a national of a majority English speaking country
  • You have proven your knowledge of English at the required level in a previous successful application
  • You have an academic degree taught or researched in English
  • You have passed a Secure English Language Test (SELT).

Skilled Worker visa applications

When applying for a Skilled Worker visa, you must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the CEFR scale. You can demonstrate this if you meet any of the criteria listed above. There are also additional options available to Skilled Worker visa applicants:

  • You will meet the requirement if you have a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18.
  • If you’re a doctor, dentist, nurse, midwife or vet, you do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve already passed an English Language assessment that is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body.

Under the Skilled Worker route, dependant applicants do not need to prove their knowledge of English. However, if your family members intend to apply for settlement after five years’ continuous residency, they will need to meet the English language requirement for that application.

Settlement applications

Anyone applying for settlement must demonstrate they have the equivalent of level B1 on the CEFR scale. However, there are some exemptions:

  • Applicants aged under 18 or 65 or over on the date of application do not need to meet the English language requirement.
  • An applicant is exempt from meeting the English language requirement if they have a disability (a physical or mental condition) that prevents them from meeting the requirement.
  • A person applying for settlement as a partner, parent or dependent child aged over 18 may be exempt if they meet all of the following:
    • have spent a continuous period of 15 years in the UK with valid permission
    • show a speaking and listening qualification in English at level A2 CEFR, ESOL entry level 2 or Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework level 3
    • provide confirmation from a qualified English teacher that the applicant has attended an English language class for at least 75 guided learning hours (not unsupervised study or preparation time) in the 12 months immediately before the date of application and the teacher’s view is the applicant is unlikely to attain B1 level through further study.

Taking a Secure English Language Test (SELT)

If you need to take a test to prove your knowledge of English, your results will only be accepted if the test has been carried out with an approved provider. You should also ensure you take the correct type of test for the route you are applying under. More information can be found here.

Support with your visa or settlement application

If you are applying for a UK visa or settlement and need advice or support, Smith Stone Walters can help. Our immigration consultants will manage every aspect of your application to ensure a stress-free process for you and your family. To speak to a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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