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:
- Innovator route
- Start-up route
- Skilled Worker visa
- Minister of Religion
- Student visa
Speaking & listening tests
The following categories require only speaking and listening to be tested:
- Representative of an Overseas Business
- Indefinite leave to remain
- Citizenship – while the Home Office only stipulates speaking and listening skills to be tested for British citizenship applications, though there is also a requirement that the applicant passes a Life in the UK test on British values, traditions, history, government and law.
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
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago, and
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
Test providers outside of the UK are:
- PSI Services (UK) Ltd
- IELTS SELT Consortium
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
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