The UK immigration system has a number of requirements for would-be immigrants seeking worker visas to the UK. Among minimum salary requirements, education levels, and other UK visa required skills and qualifications, applicants will need to establish proof of English language for UK immigration. If you are applying for any kind of Skilled Worker visa for the UK, you will therefore need to prove your English language abilities in order to be considered eligible for a visa. Read on for more information about how applicants can prove their knowledge of English, how to take SELT test for UK visa, find out if you are the kind of applicant who does not need to prove their knowledge of English, and learn more about visa requirements and the general UK immigration process for those seeking Skilled Worker visas.
What level of “fluency” is acceptable?
The UK government uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale in order to assess the English language fluency of applicants for UK immigration.
Applicants for UK immigration must reach or exceed the B1 level on the CEFR scale.
An applicant who is at the B1 level of English is defined as an Independent user, midway between a “Basic user” and a “Proficient User”. An Independent user of English is essentially someone who is fairly comfortable speaking mid-level English across a variety of common (i.e. frequently encountered) domestic and professional settings and situations. For more information on the various levels of English language fluency, click here.
How to prove your English language abilities
If you are applying for a UK work visa, you can fulfill the knowledge of English requirement via one of the below official pathways:
If you received at minimum a bachelor’s (or other advanced degree recognized as analogous to a UK degree) from an English-language university or otherwise obtained a degree via English-language instruction. Your degree/course must be recognized by UK NARIC; the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom, accessible via this link.
Receiving one of the following educational qualifications: A level, GSCE, Scottish National Qualification (either in level 4 or 5), or (in English) a Scottish Higher/Advanced Higher.
Receiving a passing score on the SELT test for UK visa (also known as an IELTS test for UK visa). Find a location to take a valid IELTS test for UK visa via this link.
In order for your test results to be accepted by the UK government, they must have been obtained through an official test provider and taken at an official testing site. In addition, you must have received your results within two years of applying for your Skilled Worker visa. If you took a test over two years before applying for your visa, you will have to retake it, even if you received a passing score the first time.
IELTS tests are available through these five officially recognized providers: PSI Services, Trinity College London, Pearson, LanguageCert, and the IELTS SELT Consortium.
While tests can be taken either inside the UK or in another country, they must be accessed via one of the above five recognized providers.
Please note, if you have previously and successfully gone through the UK immigration process (i.e. previously applied for and received a visa to the UK, which necessitated you proving your achievement of the required degree of English fluency) you will be exempt from having to re-prove your fluency on this new application.
Who does not need to prove their knowledge of English?
People who are citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, or any of the countries listed below (most of which are UK Commonwealth or former Commonwealth states) do not need to prove their knowledge of English:
Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago.
People who are applying for work visas in healthcare (as nurses, midwives, doctors, or dentists) who have previously received a valid score on an English-language test administered by their respective professional entity.
Who does need to prove their knowledge of English?
Historically, the UK visa did not require would-be immigrant workers from the EU, EAA, and Switzerland to prove their ability to speak English. This is because when the UK was part of the EU, citizens from fellow EU states enjoyed visa-free access to the UK.
Today, anyone seeking a Skilled Worker visa to the UK who is not from one of the countries listed in the preceding paragraph will need to prove their ability to speak English.
Overview of UK immigration system
The current UK immigration system is points-based, meaning that applicants pursuing UK immigration must achieve a certain number of points (70) in order to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa.
Points are awarded by meeting salary requirements, holding various skills, or possessing a certain level of education. Different requirements/skills are each worth a certain number of points: an applicant who possesses or holds skills that are worth points will receive the specific number of points that specific skill represents.
There are two different categories of points you can receive: mandatory points and tradeable points.
Mandatory points are those that are just that: mandatory. Mandatory points are inseparably linked to a specific skill/qualification, meaning that you have to receive those number of points from that specific skill—they can’t be made up by receiving an equivalent number of points in a tradeable category.
In contrast, tradeable points are those that are not inseparably linked to a specific skill/qualification—these points are interchangeable, meaning you don’t have to derive the points from a specific skill or qualification.
In this sense, mandatory points are more essential than tradeable points, because you have to receive mandatory points in order to be eligible for UK immigration. Failure to receive the correct mandatory points, even if you have received more than 70 tradeable points, means you will not be eligible for UK immigration via a Skilled Worker visa.
Because knowledge of English is a mandatory skill for UK immigration, establishing your knowledge of English is one of the ways you can receive mandatory points.
Please keep in mind that the English language requirements for Skilled Worker visas may be different than those for other visa categories.
For example, an applicant for a Skilled Worker visa must demonstrate having met or exceeded the English language level B1, in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. In contrast, someone seeking a T2 sportsperson visa only needs to meet Level A1, and only in speaking and listening.