Appendix English Language was introduced as part of the UK’s post-Brexit overhaul of the immigration system, along with other key changes to routes into the UK for migrant workers.
When applying for entry clearance or permission to remain in the UK, an individual will need to satisfy various eligibility requirements. For many routes, the requirements include knowledge of the English to a required standard.
Below we examine what the language requirement is for UK visa applicants, and how it must be met. By understanding the English language requirement, both employer/sponsors and visa applicants alike will be better able to determine how this requirement should be evidenced for assessment by the Home Office, and whether or not the applicant will first need to pass an approved English language test prior to applying for a visa.
What is Appendix English Language?
Appendix English Language sets out the supplementary provisions as to how this requirement can be met under several different visa routes and the limited exemptions that may apply.
Appendix English Language of the UK’s Immigration Rules came into effect on 1 December 2020 for visa applications under various different routes including applications under:
- Appendix Student
- Appendix Skilled Worker
- Appendix Representatives of an Overseas Business
- Appendix T2 Minister of Religion
- Appendix T2 Sportsperson
- Appendix UK Ancestry
- Appendix Global Talent
- Appendix Start-up
- Appendix Innovator
- Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker
- Appendix Hong Kong British National (Overseas)
- Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay
The required level and CEFR component for other immigration routes can vary, although the way in which the English language requirement will be assessed by UKVI is consolidated under Appendix English Language of the revised new rules.
For example, the ability to speak English remains a mandatory requirement for skilled migrant workers, where applicants must satisfy UKVI they have English language skills equivalent to at least level B1 (intermediate) of the Common European Framework of References for English language (CEFR) in all four essential components: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
How is the English language requirement met?
There are various ways in which the English language requirement can be met including:
- where the applicant has previously met the requirement in an entry clearance or earlier application for leave at the required level for their current application;
- where the applicant is a national of any of the listed majority English-speaking countries;
- where the applicant can provide documentary evidence to prove that they hold an academic qualification which meets certain requirements; or
- where the applicant can show that they have passed an English language test to the required level from an approved provider.
Under certain immigration routes, including when applying for entry clearance or permission to stay under Appendix Skilled Worker, an applicant may also be able to meet the English language requirement where they were awarded an English GCSE or A level from a listed regulated awarding body whilst in education as an under 18 in a UK school.
Further, and specifically for applications under Appendix Skilled Worker only, an applicant will be able to meet the language requirement where they are being sponsored to work as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife, and have passed an English Language assessment which is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body as a requirement for registration. Similar special provision is made for university students and post-graduates that are sponsored by a higher education provider who has already assessed their language abilities.
Each of these methods of satisfying the English language requirement are addressed in further detail below, although there may also be cases where an applicant is automatically exempt.
Exemptions to the English language requirement
In some limited cases there are specific exemptions to the English Language requirement. An individual applying for settlement (otherwise known as ILR or Indefinite Leave to Remain) will be exempt from proving this requirement, provided at the date of application the applicant is either:
- aged 65 or over; or
- aged under 18; or
- suffering from a disability, either a physical or mental condition, which prevents them from meeting the requirement.
Where the applicant contends that the exemption applies because of a disability, they will be required to give UKVI reasons and provide medical evidence in support, for example, that they are suffering from a serious 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.
This exemption could also apply, for example, where the applicant is deaf and cannot show they meet the listening and/or speaking requirement.
However, it is only in extremely limited cases that a skilled migrant worker will be exempt from satisfying the English language requirement, especially as an applicant must be aged 18 or over on the date of application to be eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.
The language requirement has been met in a previous application
Appendix English Language makes specific provision for where an applicant has already shown they have met the language requirement, at the level required for their current application, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.
Provided that the previous application was successful and shows the required level of English language ability on the route the applicant is now applying for, the applicant will automatically satisfy the language requirement without having to produce any further evidence in support.
In the context of an application for settlement under the Skilled Worker route, that individual should already have shown their language ability at level B1 (intermediate) in their previous application for entry clearance or leave, thereby satisfying the requirement for settlement.
Nationals from majority English-speaking countries
Under Appendix English Language, an applicant will meet the English language requirement if they are a national of any one of the following majority English-speaking countries:
Antigua & Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Malta; New Zealand; St Kitts & Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent & the Grenadines; Trinidad & Tobago; and the United States of America.
UKVI will check the applicant’s passport, travel document, valid national ID card or any other satisfactory proof of nationality that they have provided to confirm that they are a national of a majority English-speaking country. Applicants who are dual nationals do not have to apply in the nationality they are relying on to benefit from this rule. They will meet the requirement if one of their nationalities is included in the majority English-speaking country list.
Academic study & qualifications in English
An applicant will meet the English language requirement if they have obtained any one of the following academic qualifications in the circumstances set out:
- the applicant has a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate awarded in the UK;
- the applicant has a degree or degree-level qualification taught in a university or college in a listed majority English-speaking country (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; or
- the applicant has 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.
To prove they hold any of these qualifications, obtained in the specified way described, the applicant must either provide a certificate from the awarding body, a transcript issued by the university or college that awarded the qualification, or an official letter containing information equivalent to a degree certificate.
In circumstances where the qualification was awarded by a body from outside the UK, in addition to any one of these pieces of documentary evidence, the applicant must also provide confirmation from UK NARIC that the qualification meets the necessary requirements. NARIC is the agency responsible for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications.
Does GCSE or A Level English meet the requirement?
In limited cases, a visa applicant may be able to rely on a GCSE or A level in either English language or literature to prove their ability to speak English. However, this concession is limited to certain immigration routes (but includes the Skilled Worker route), in the following specified circumstances only:
- the GCSE or A level was awarded by an Ofqual regulated awarding body (there are different regulatory bodies for the equivalent qualifications in Wales and Scotland); and
- this was following education in a UK school undertaken while they were aged under 18.
The exam does not need to be taken when the applicant is under 18, as some students will turn 18 during the academic year, although an applicant cannot rely on GCSE or A levels gained through adult education or correspondence courses.
They must also be able to show proof of their English GCSE or A level (or Scottish or Welsh equivalent) by way of either a certificate or official transcript issued by the awarding body.
English language tests
For those applicants who are not exempt under the rules, have not already proven the requisite language ability in a previous successful application, are not a national of a listed majority English-speaking country and do not hold a relevant academic qualification, they can still meet the English language requirement by passing a test from an approved provider.
The applicant will need to provide a valid digital reference number from an approved provider showing they have passed an approved English language test to the required level in the 2 years before the date of application. However, if the SELT (Secure English Language Test) certificate has expired within one month before the date of application, the applicant may be allowed time to take a new test at the appropriate level.
The applicant must have scored at least the minimum level required in each component of the test, where all components of the test must be taken in one sitting. If an applicant has taken the test and failed one or more of the components, they must retake the test in its entirety.
Special provisions for the English language requirement
Under the medical professional regulation for skilled migrant workers, an applicant applying for entry clearance or permission to stay under Appendix Skilled Worker will meet the English language requirement if they are being sponsored to work as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife, and have passed an English Language assessment which is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body as a requirement for registration.
In these circumstances, the language assessment is a requirement for registration and employment by the sponsor, so no further proof of the applicant’s English language ability will be required by UKVI. Checks may be made that the applicant is registered with their relevant professional body, for example, the General Medical Council for doctors, the Nursing and Midwifery Council for nurses and midwives, or the General Dental Council for dentists.
Similar special provision is made for university students and post-graduates that are sponsored by a higher education provider who has already assessed their language abilities.
DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration, with substantial experience and recognised expertise in advising on visa eligibility and providing application process guidance. For specialist immigration advice, contact us.
Appendix English Language FAQs
What is Appendix English language?
Appendix English Language sets out the rules relating to the requirement under various UK visa routes to be able to speak, listen, read and write English to a required standard. These rules form part of the Immigration Rules, as recently amended, under the post-Brexit overhaul of the UK’s immigration system.
What is Appendix FM?
Appendix FM sets out the requirements that must be met for those seeking to enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family life with a person who is a British Citizen, settled in the UK, or with limited leave as a refugee or person granted humanitarian protection. This is where they cannot seek leave as a family member under Part 11 of the Immigration Rules.
Is an English test required for a Skilled Worker visa?
An English test may be required for a Skilled Worker visa, depending on where the applicant is from and what qualifications they hold, where the ability to speak English to the required standard can be demonstrated in ways other than a Secure English Language Test (SELT).
What English test is required for ILR?
When applying for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain), an applicant may need to prove their knowledge of English by passing all the relevant components of a Secure English Language Test (SELT), unless they have already proven this requirement in a previous successful application or they are otherwise exempt.
Last updated: 2 January 2023