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Demystifying the English language requirement for UK visas

A 5-minute explainer

English test

Demystifying the English language requirement for UK visas

For many visa routes, evidencing your English language skills to a certain level is an essential part of the application and failing to do so, could lead to the refusal of your application. However, the requirement is not homogenous – it varies across different routes and types of application and can be met in several different ways. There are also exemptions available to applicants with certain circumstances.

What is the English Language requirement?

Appendix English Language governs the majority of visa options – the link here provides a list of routes this Appendix covers.

Notably, applications for citizenship or family applications under Appendix FM are not covered by Appendix English Language, and have their own separate requirements.  

There are five options available to meet the requirement under Appendix English Language:

1.      Met in a previous application

This is relatively straightforward – if you have already demonstrated to the Home Office that you have met the requirement, at the level required for your current application, in a previous successful application, then you will be considered to have met the English language requirement. There is no need to re-sit another English Language test, for example.

This option also applies to citizenship and applications under Appendix FM.

2.      National of a majority English speaking country

You will be considered to have sufficiently demonstrated your English language skills if you are a national of any of the following countries:

Antigua and Barbuda / Australia / The Bahamas / Barbados / Belize /British Overseas Territories / Canada / Dominica / Grenada / Guyana / Jamaica / Malta / New Zealand / St Kitts & Nevis / St Lucia / St Vincent & the Grenadines / Trinidad & Tobago / United States of America

As above, this option also applies to citizenship and applications under Appendix FM.

3.      Academic Qualification

Certain academic qualifications are also deemed sufficient to meet the English language requirement under Appendix English Language:

(a)    A bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a doctorate awarded in the UK;

(b)   A degree or degree-level qualification taught in a university or college in a majority- English-speaking country (listed in the table above, except Canada), or Ireland, which meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate awarded in the UK.

(c)    a degree or degree level qualification which meets, or exceeds, the recognised standard of a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate and was taught or researched in English.

In order to prove you have obtained one of the relevant qualifications above, you must be able to provide one of the following documents with your application:

  • a certificate from the awarding body
  • a transcript issued by the university or college that awarded the qualification
  • an official letter from the university or college that awarded the qualification containing information equivalent to a degree certificate.

If the qualification was awarded by a body from outside the UK, in addition to one of the above documents, you must provide confirmation from Ecctis that the qualification meets the requirements. Ecctis is an independent body that measures academic qualifications in line with UK requirements. More information can be found here.

This option also applies to citizenship and applications under Appendix FM.

4.      GCSE or A Level English

An applicant will meet the English language requirement if they have a GCSE, an International GCSE, an A level, a Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5 or a Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English (language or literature) that was awarded by an Ofqual (or SQA, Qualifications Wales or CCEA) regulated awarding body following education undertaken in a UK based school which began while they were aged under 18.

 As above, to prove you meet the requirement this way, you will need to show with your application:

  • a certificate from the awarding body; or
  • an official transcript issued by the awarding body

This option cannot be used for citizenship and applications under Appendix FM, or other potential routes outside of those governed by Appendix English Language. This is the case even if you used your GSCE or A Level to meet the rules in a previous application; you would need to satisfy the requirement using one of the other four options.

5.      Secure English Language test (SELT)

This is a GOV UK approved test that enables applicants to demonstrate their English proficiency to the level required for their application. Approved tests and their providers, both inside and outside the UK, can be found here on the GOV UK website.

SELTs can also be used to prove the English language requirement for Appendix FM and citizenship applications.

SELTs are used to measure an applicant’s ability in two modules: Speaking and Listening or four modules: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. Whether you must pass just the first two, or all four, depends on the type of application that you are making.

Applications requiring an assessment of just Speaking and Listening include, but are not exclusive to:

  • Parent or Partner
  • Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Citizenship
  • Any Indefinite Leave to Remain Applications
  • International Sportsperson

Applications requiring an assessment of Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing include but are not exclusive to:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Health and Care Worker
  • Minister of Religion
  • Student
  • Innovator Founder

SELTs are also measured against the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). The required levels range from A1 CEFR to the highest level of C2 CEFR. This CEFR level of skilled required varies from each application, and you should check the specific rules for what level you need to demonstrate your skill to.

For a FREE initial consultation, call us now on 0300 131 6767

Exemptions

Appendix English Language provides three exemptions to the English Language requirement:

1. Age

If an Applicant is over the age of 65 or under the 18 of at the date of the application, they do not need to meet the English language requirement.


2. Disability (a physical or mental condition) preventing them from meeting the requirement
Examples of when an applicant will be exempt include:

  • Where they are suffering from a long-term or ongoing illness or disability (which may last for years) that severely restricts their ability to learn English or to take the test
  • They are suffering from a serious or life threatening illness such as cancer, which may involve treatment over the course of several months that severely restricts their ability to learn English or to take the test
  • They have a mental condition which prevents them from speaking or learning English to the required standard

3. Applicants that are applying for settlement as a partner, parent or dependent child aged over 18 
Applicants in the above circumstances may be exempt from the English language requirement subject to them showing:

  • that they have spent a continuous period of 15 years in the UK with permission; and
  • they have an English language speaking and listening qualification at A2 CEFR or ESOL entry level 2 or Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework level 3; and
  • 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 before the date of application and the teacher’s view is the applicant is unlikely to attain B1 level through further study.

The above exemptions also apply to applications under Appendix FM.

If you are aged 65 and over, applying for citizenship, you are exempt from the English Language requirement. If you have a long term mental or physical condition preventing you from sitting a test, you must complete an exemption form for citizenship applications: Knowledge of Language Exemption

If you require guidance or assistance understanding the English language requirement for your personal circumstances, please get in touch with Latitude Law to find out how we can help. Call us now on 0300 131 6767 or complete our online enquiry form and we will get straight back to you.

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