English Language Requirement for Skilled & Employer Nominated Visas

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 186 ENS/187 RSMS Direct and Transition stream
  • Vocational English
  • Functional English: for secondary applicants seeking to avoid paying the English Language Charge

From 14 December 2022, IELTS One Skill Retake (OSR) will be available for certain test takers.  OSR allows test takers to retake one of the four test components in either reading, writing, speaking or listening (once only).

For Australian visa purposes, the Department will accept IELTS test results that include OSR, with the exception of applications for subclasses 476, 482, and 485, which need scores from a single sitting/attempt.

Timing of English

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

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.

Validity of English Tests

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

Functional English requires testing to have been done at most 12 months before lodgement.

Acceptable English Tests

  • The IELTS test / IELTS Australia /computer-delivered IELTS 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 recognise these tests, as do some skills assessment authorities.
  • The Cambridge Test of English is also accepted from January 2015.

You can read more about the pros and cons of each English test in our article here.

Remote or ‘at home’ English language tests not acceptable

When applying for student, skilled and some permanent visas, you will need to meet our English language requirements. The Department does not accept scores from remote or ‘at home’ English language tests as evidence of English language competency. For more information about English language test scores DHA accept for visa purposes, please refer to our English language.

Vocational English

Vocational English is the required level to obtain for RSMS 187 visa through the Temporary Residence Transitional stream for people who have held a TSS visa for 3 years with the employer.

Required scores to establish Vocational English are as follows:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS (overall 5.5) 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. Competent English is also required for the 186 Direct and Transition streams. 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 recognised 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 the 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

Applying for migration to Australia can be complex, so we recommend that you book a consultation to check your likely eligibility for immigration to Australia before you proceed with an application.

Popular Australian visas with English requirements:

The English tests will apply for the following types of visa:


The TOEFL iBT is taken via the internet. There are more than 50 test dates each year, and there is a wide range of test locations throughout the world.

The test takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete has the following structure:

  1. Reading: 60-80 Minutes
  2. Listening: 120-180 Minutes
  3. Speaking: 20 Minutes
  4. Writing: 50 Minutes

TOEFL scores are available approximately 10 days after the test date. They can be viewed online, and a hard copy is sent approximately 13 days after the test date. You can specify recipients for your scores to be sent to via an online facility, but this cannot be changed after you have taken the test.

The current cost to undertake the TOEFL iBT in Australia is $240, well under the current cost of IELTS ($330).

PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English Academic is structured as follows:

  1. Speaking and writing: 77 – 93 minutes
  2. Reading: 32 – 41 minutes
  3. Listening: 45 – 57 minutes

Overall, the test takes 3 hours. Results are available within 5 working days, and can be accessed by logging into an online account. It is possible to forward results to institutions via the online account also. This compares favourably with IELTS – results currently take 2 weeks to become available, and there is no online account facility for test takers.

The cost to do the PTE Academic test in Australia is $330 – exactly the same as IELTS. Locations and test dates are less extensive than the TOEFL.

Book a meeting today for a commitment free briefing with our Registered Migration Agents in Melbourne to find more about your visa options.