English Language Requirement for Skilled Migration

If you are applying for Skilled Migration, you will need to prove your English language ability. The required level of English depends on the visa subclass you are applying for and there are 4 different levels of English which may be relevant:

  • Superior English: 20 points in GSM points test
  • Proficient English: 10 points in GSM points test
  • Competent English: threshold requirement for General Skilled Migration and ENS and RSMS
  • Vocational English: previously important for General Skilled Migration and Employer Sponsored Visas
  • Functional English: for secondary applicants seeking to avoid paying the English Language Charge

Timing of English

The timing of the English language requirement depends on the type of visa being applied for:

  • General Skilled Migration: time of invitation
  • RSMS and ENS visas: time of application

As it can take some time to obtain a booking for a test and to receive the results, you may wish to plan to take the English test well ahead of time.

The validity of English Tests

Tests conducted up to 3 years prior to lodgement of an application will be accepted by the Department of Immigration.

The only exception to this is for functional English – this requires testing to have been done at most 12 months before lodgement.

Acceptable English Tests

The IELTS test is the most common way of evidencing English language ability. Either the Academic or General Training versions of the test are acceptable to the Department of Immigration, but some skills assessing authorities require applicants to sit the Academic version. You will need to obtain a minimum score in each band of the IELTS (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking) in a single sitting.

The Occupational English Test (OET) is also accepted as evidence of proficient and superior levels of English. The OET is only appropriate for medical and allied health professionals.

The Pearson Academic Test of English (Pearson PTE) and TOEFL Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT) are now accepted for all skilled subclasses. Most state and territory governments also recognize these tests, as do some skills assessment authorities.

The Cambridge Test of English is also accepted from January 2015.

Vocational English

Required scores to establish Vocational English are as follows:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 5 5 5 5
TOEFL iBT 4 4 14 14
PTE Academic 36 36 36 36
Cambridge (CAE) 154 154 154 154

Competent English

For most skilled visas, you will need to show at least Competent English to meet the threshold criteria. If you hold a passport from one of the following 5 countries, you can establish competent English without completing an English test:

  1. Canada
  2. New Zealand
  3. United Kingdom
  4. United States
  5. Ireland

Otherwise, you would need to complete a recognized English language test and obtain the following score:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 6 6 6 6
TOEFL iBT 12 13 21 18
PTE Academic 50 50 50 50
Cambridge (CAE) 169 169 169 169

Competent English gives you 0 points in the Skilled Migration Points Test but is an essential requirement to be able to lodge a skilled visa.

Proficient English

If you demonstrate proficient English, this will give you 10 points for English language ability.

Even native English speakers must undertake English language testing to obtain points for proficient English or higher.

Scores required for Proficient English are:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 7 7 7 7
TOEFL iBT 24 24 27 23
PTE Academic 65 65 65 65
Cambridge (CAE) 185 185 185 185

Superior English

If you demonstrate superior English, this will give a maximum of 20 points for English language ability. Minimum scores for Superior English are:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 8 8 8 8
TOEFL iBT 28 29 30 26
PTE Academic 79 79 79 79
Cambridge (CAE) 200 200 200 200

Functional English

If your spouse or partner has less than functional English, then you would need to pay the “English Education Charge” to cover English language tuition in applying for skilled migration.

You can show you have functional English ability by providing evidence of one of the following:

  1. Completion of a degree, higher degree, diploma or trade certificate that required at least 2 years of study in English medium
  2. Completion of all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education in English medium; or
  3. Completion of at least 5 years of secondary education in English medium; or
  4. Scoring at least 4.5 averaged over the four components of the IELTS test within the 12 months before application, or during processing; or
  5. Completion in Australia of at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma in English medium.
  6. In some circumstances, functional English can be established via interview

You can also demonstrate functional English by completing an English test and scoring as follows:

Test component Average across test components only
PTE Academic 30
OET n/a
Cambridge (CAE) 147