When applying for a visa to come to or stay in the UK, applicants will often need to meet an English language requirement as set out under Appendix English Language of the UK’s Immigration Rules.
The following practical guide for applicants on the English language requirement looks at what these rules say and who is exempt from this requirement.
What is Appendix English Language?
Appendix English Language is one of the many appendices attached to the UK’s Immigration Rules and sets out how the English language requirement is met for certain categories of visa. Although it is the rules for each route that prescribe whether the English language requirement must be met by an applicant and at what level, Appendix English language sets out exactly how the requirement is met and who is potentially exempt.
When does Appendix English Language apply?
Appendix English language applies to applications for some of the most common visa routes for workers, including applications under Appendix Skilled Worker, Appendix Scale Up, Appendix T2 Minister of Religion and Appendix International Sportsperson, as well those applying to start a new business in the UK on the Appendix Innovator Founder route.
The requirement to be able to speak English in accordance with Appendix English Language also applies to some of the more flexible work routes, such as applications under Global Talent and Appendix High Potential Individual, as well as more specific work routes, including applications under Appendix Representative of an Overseas Business or Appendix Domestic Worker in a Private Household. Other routes on which the requirements of Appendix English Language must be met include applications under Appendix Student, Appendix Settlement Family Life, Appendix Private Life, Appendix UK Ancestry, Appendix Hong Kong British National (Overseas), Appendix Child staying with or joining a Non-Parent Relative (Protection) and Appendix Hong Kong British National (Overseas).
In all cases, the appendix for each of the relevant routes will set out whether the English language requirement must be met and at what level. For example, when applying on the Skilled Worker route, where applicable, an overseas national applying for entry clearance on this route must show their English language ability on what is known as the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages in all four components (listening, speaking, reading and writing) of at least level B1 (intermediate). In contrast, when applying to come to the UK on the Innovator Founder route, unless exempt, the applicant must show an English language ability of at least CEFR level B2 (upper intermediate).
The level of English language ability can also vary on the same visa route, depending on whether someone is applying for either limited or indefinite leave to remain in the UK. For example, when apply for entry clearance or for permission to stay on the International Sportsperson route, the applicant need only show English language ability in just speaking and listening at CEFR level A1 (elementary), increasing to CEFR level B1 in these two components when applying for settlement on this route. Finally, it is worth noting that on certain routes, such as the Global Talent or the UK Ancestry route, an applicant will only be required to prove their English language ability when applying to settle in the UK.
How to prove you meet the English language requirement
There are various ways to meet the English language requirement under Appendix English Language, although this can slightly differ depending on the applicant’s chosen visa route. However, regardless of their chosen route, an applicant will be able to satisfy the English language requirement in any one of the following ways:
You’ve already met the requirement in a previous application
Under the rules for all applicable routes, an applicant will be able to meet the English language requirement if they have already met the requirement, at the applicable level required for their current application, in a previously approved application for either entry clearance or for permission to stay in the UK. For example, if a person has applied for entry clearance on the Skilled Worker route and they subsequently apply for further leave to remain on that route, the previous proof to show their English language ability to at least CEFR Level B1 in all four components will be sufficient for any extension application.
However, before relying on any proof submitted in support of a previous application, it is important to ensure that this is sufficient to cover the required level of English language ability for any subsequent application. For example, if an applicant previously met the English language requirement for entry clearance or limited leave on the International Sportsperson route at CEFR level A1, this would not be sufficient to meet the language requirement for settlement on this route at level B1. In these circumstances, the applicant would still need to provide proof that they can meet the higher level of proficiency.
You’re from a majority English-speaking country
If an applicant is a national from any one of the majority-English-speaking countries cited under Appendix English Language, they will meet the English language requirement.
These countries include: Antigua & Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; The British Overseas Territories; Canada; Dominica; Guyana; Grenada; Jamaica; Malta; New Zealand; St Lucia; St Vincent & the Grenadines; St Kitts & Nevis; Trinidad & Tobago; and the United States of America. As part of the application process, the applicant’s passport will not only prove their identity, but also their nationality for this purpose.
You have a relevant academic qualification
An applicant will meet the English language requirement under Appendix English language if they have an academic qualification which meets one of the relevant requirements and is proven by the required evidence. The requirements are that the applicant has either:
- a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or a doctorate, awarded in the UK
a degree or a degree-level qualification that was taught in a university or college in a majority English-speaking country (except Canada or Ireland), which either meets or exceeds the recognised standard of degree awarded in the UK
a degree or a degree-level qualification which either meets or exceeds the recognised standard of at least a UK bachelor’s degree, and was taught or researched in English.
To prove one of these qualifications, the applicant must produce either a certificate from the awarding body, a transcript as issued by the university or college that awarded the qualification in question, or an official letter from the awarding university or college containing information equivalent to a degree certificate. If the qualification was awarded by an educational body from outside the UK, the applicant must additionally provide written confirmation from Ecctis that the qualification meets the relevant requirements.
By passing an English language test
If an applicant is unable to meet the English language requirement in any other way, as specified under Appendix English language, they will need to pass a secure English language test (SELT) with an approved test provider to the required level in the two years prior to the date of their application. Having passed the SELT, they will then need to provide a valid digital reference number when submitting their visa application.
A list of approved tests and providers, updated from time to time, can be found online at GOV.UK. This includes providers for applicants who are both inside or outside the UK.
Additional ways to meet the English language requirement
On certain visa routes, there are additional ways in which an applicant can meet the English language requirement under Appendix English language.
GCSE or A Level English
Where an applicant is applying for entry clearance, permission to stay or settlement on certain routes, they will meet the English language requirement if they hold a 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. However, this qualification must have been awarded by either an Ofqual (or an SQA, Qualifications Wales or CCEA) regulated awarding body, and only following education undertaken in a UK school which began while aged under 18.
In circumstances where the English language requirement can be met through having either a GCSE or A Level in English language or English literature, this must be proven by either a certificate or official transcript issued by the awarding body. An applicant will be able to meet the English language requirement in this way if they are applying:
- for entry clearance or permission to stay as either a Student or Skilled Worker, or on the Start-up, Innovator Founder, High Potential Individual or T2 Minister of Religion routes
- for entry clearance, permission to stay or settlement on either the Scale-up, International Sportsperson or Representative of an Overseas Business routes
- for settlement under either Appendix Settlement Family Life, or on any one of the following routes: Appendix Private Life, UK Ancestry, Global Talent, Domestic Workers in a Private Household, Hong Kong British National (Overseas) and Appendix Child Staying with or joining a Non-Parent Relative (Protection).
Students & English language requirement
If an applicant is applying under Appendix Student, they can additionally meet the English language requirement if they are applying for a course of study at degree level or above and they are sponsored by a UK-based higher education provider with a track record of compliance who states on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) that they have already assessed the applicant’s English language ability and how they have assessed it.
Where an assessment has been carried out, the CAS must confirm that the applicant has a knowledge of English equivalent to at least CEFR level B2 in all four components (listening, speaking, reading and writing), or at least CEFR level B1 and the student sponsor is satisfied that the applicant will have at least level B2 by the end of the pre-sessional course.
An applicant under Appendix Student will also meet the English language requirement if they have taken an approved English test and been exempted from a component of that test by the test provider due to a disability, and the student sponsor has confirmed that they are satisfied the language ability of the applicant is sufficient to undertake the course of study.
Equally, an applicant under Appendix Student will meet the English language requirement if they are applying for a short-term study abroad programme of up to six months, and both the study abroad programme is part of a course of study at degree level or above at an overseas higher education institution in the USA and Ecctis have confirmed the course of study overseas will lead to an academic qualification at UK bachelor’s degree level or above.
Professional regulation for Skilled Workers
An applicant applying for either entry clearance or permission to stay under Appendix Skilled Worker will meet the English language requirement in accordance with Appendix English language if they are being sponsored to work as either a doctor, nurse, midwife, dentist or veterinarian, and they have passed an English Language assessment which is accepted by their relevant regulated professional body as a requirement for registration.
English language requirement exemptions
An applicant will be exempt from the English language requirement under Appendix English language if, at the date of their visa application, any one of the following apply:
- they are either aged under 18 or aged 65 or over
- they have a disability, either physical or mental, which prevents them from meeting the English language requirement
- they are applying for settlement as either a partner, a parent or a dependent child aged over 18 where they have spent 15 years in a row in the UK with permission; and they can show an English language listening and speaking qualification at A2 CEFR or ESOL entry level 2 or Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework level 3; and they can also provide written confirmation from a qualified English teacher that they have attended an English language class for at least 75 guided learning hours (not unsupervised study or preparation time) in the 12 months prior to the date of application and the teacher’s view is that the applicant is unlikely to attain B1 level through further study.
Appendix English Language FAQs
What is appendix knowledge of English?
Appendix knowledge of English typically refers to Appendix English Language under the UK’s Immigration Rules which sets out how the English language requirement is met for certain categories of visa, while the rules for each route prescribe at what level.
How can I prove my English proficiency?
There are various ways to prove your English proficiency under Appendix English Language, including if you have a UK degree or higher, or a degree researched or taught in English, or if you have passed a Secure English Language Test.
What are the English language requirements for UK visa?
The English language requirements will all depend on the visa route. For example, for a Skilled Worker visa, the applicant must show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages of at least level B1 (intermediate).
Does GCSE count as English proficiency?
Having a GCSE in English language or literature that was awarded following education undertaken in a UK-based school which began while a visa applicant was under 18 will count as English proficiency to the required level for various visa routes.
Last updated: 18 December 2023