English Language Test for UK Visas


The English language test for UK visas, ILR and citizenship is used to evidence an applicant’s ability to meet the required standard under the Immigration Rules.

Applicants from non-English speaking countries must pass an approved Secure English Language Test, taken through a Home Office-approved provider, to prove they meet the language requirement of the relevant immigration route.


Which English Language test is needed for your application?

The UK operates two different English language tests. Which test you need to take will depend on the type of application you are making.


Reading, writing, speaking & listening tests

The following work visa applications will require a comprehensive test covering English reading, writing, speaking and listening ability:


Speaking & listening tests

The following categories require only speaking and listening to be tested:


The level of English language test you will need to pass, known as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level, will depend on the route you are applying for.

Applicants for ILR or citizenship in the UK are required to prove their knowledge of the English language by obtaining a speaking and listening qualification at the CEF’s B1 level.

Applicants Skilled Worker visas must obtain a B1 level certificate in speaking and listening as well as reading and writing.

Minister of Religion visa applicants are required to obtain a B2 proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Applicants for the Sportsperson visa are required to meet the A1 level in speaking and listening, the lowest CEF level. As of 1 May 2017, ‘Family of Settled Person’ Visas must obtain an A2 level.

In most cases, degree level students attending an approved university are not required to demonstrate any language proficiency to obtain a visa, though the individual university may have their own criteria for admission.


English language test exemptions

There are many exemptions to the English Language Test requirement.

Only applicants above the age of 18 and under the age of 65 are subject to testing.

If an applicant has a degree, masters or PhD taught or researched in English, this will usually exclude them from the requirement.

Nationals from listed countries that predominantly speak English are also exempt. These include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago, and
  • USA


If an applicant can supply a doctor’s letter confirming that the person has a long-term, physical or mental condition that prevents them from taking the test they will also be exempt.

For settlement visas, there are further exemptions for any applicant who is:

  • a victim of domestic violence as the partner or spouse of a British citizen;
  • the partner or spouse of a British citizen who has died;
  • an adult, dependent relative of someone who is present and settled in the UK and is a refugee or has humanitarian protection;
  • a refugee living in the UK;
  • a person with discretionary leave;
  • a person with humanitarian protection;
  • a person with leave to reside in the UK as a retired person of independent means;
  • a Commonwealth citizen on discharge from HM Forces;
  • a highly skilled migrant applying under the terms of the highly skilled migrant program (HSMP); or
  • someone in exceptional circumstances.


Secure English Language Test qualifications

Applicants must prove that they have a recognised qualification obtained from an approved test centre, located throughout the UK and around the world.

The test that the applicant must sit and the grade required of them will depend on the level of proficiency required for a particular visa.

Under the CEF, a B1 level speaker will proficiently “deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken” and “produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest”.

Some of the language qualifications are only valid for two years.

If, however, a person applies for citizenship and their B1 certificate was previously accepted when that person settled in the UK, they do not need to take another test.

When applying for settlement, if a B1 qualification remains on the current list of recognised tests and was accepted for a previous immigration application, the applicant would not be required to take another test.


Taking the English language test

Proof of meeting the English language ability and passing a ‘secure English language test (SELT) will require the following:

  • The test must be on the list of approved English language tests.
  • You must have sat the test at an approved test location.
  • The test must have been awarded in the two years before the date of your application.


Applicants must take the relevant English language test with an approved provider, as specified on the .gov website.
Test providers in the UK are:

  • Trinity College London
  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson

Test providers outside of the UK are:

  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd
  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson


The approved IELTS SELT Consortium tests are:

  • IELTS for UKVI
  • IELTS Life Skills


The approved LanguageCert tests are:

  • LanguageCert International ESOL SELT


The approved Trinity College London tests are:

  • ‘Secure English Language Tests for UKVI’ – Integrated Skills in English (ISE)
  • Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)


The approved Pearson tests are:

  • Pearson PTE Academic UKVI
  • Pearson PTE Home


The approved PSI Services (UK) Ltd tests are:

  • Skills for English UKVI



Need assistance?

If you have any queries about English language tests, applying for citizenship or any other visa-related issue, please contact us for advice.


English language test FAQs

What is the English test for UK visa?

For certain visa applications, you will need to prove you meet the English language requirement by taking a Home Office approved Secure English Language Test (SELT). The level of English and type of test will depend on the immigration category you are applying for.

Which English test is required for UK spouse visa?

Spouse visa applicants must be evidence they have passed the English language test in speaking and listening.

What is the a1 English test?

A1 English is the equivalent of the 'beginner' level and is the first level of English in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

Last updated: 12 August 2022


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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