English Requirement | 186 & 187 visa

The primary visa applicant will need to demonstrate ‘Competent’ English’ language ability. The English examination scores that you need to achieve are as follows: 

English Requirement - 186 & 187 visa

TOEFL iBT12132118
PTE Academic50505050

You can use an English result from an examination completed in the 3 year period prior to the date of lodgement of your visa application. If you use an examination result which is obtained after lodgement, or if the examination was completed before the 3 year period that precedes the lodgement of the application, then this examination result will not be accepted and the Department will likely refuse your visa application.

Results from an Academic or General IELTS examination will both be accepted.

The applicant needs to satisfy the minimum score for each of the test components. Your average score is not relevant. You need to achieve the required result in one examination seating. You can’t accumulate the required scores in each test component over multiple examinations.

English Exemptions


Exempted passport holders


Anyone holding a passport from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, the Republic of Ireland or New Zealand will satisfy the English language requirement. This exemption applies to both the Temporary Residence Transition stream and the Direct Entry streams.


Dependent Family over 18 - Functional English

All adult dependents who are over 18 years of age will need to demonstrate ‘functional’ English language ability. This can be demonstrated in a number of ways:

  1. Complete all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education (high school) at educational institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English; or
  2. Complete at least 5 years of secondary education at institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English; or
  3. Complete in Australia at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma at an institution or institutions where all the instruction was conducted in English; or
  4. Hold an award (being a degree, a higher degree, a diploma or a trade certificate) that required at least 2 years of full-time study or training; and all instruction (including instruction received in other courses for which the person was allowed credit) for that award was conducted in English; or
  5. Achieve English examination results outlined below – required scores to satisfy Functional English:

Test componentAverage test score
PTE Academic30

Secondary Visa Application Charge (SVAC)

As the primary applicant, you must satisfy the English language requirement. If you do not meet the English language requirement, then one of the exemptions outlined above must apply to you. Otherwise, you would not satisfy the relevant visa requirements, and paying this SVAC does not allow you to satisfy the visa requirements. Paying the SVAC is not an exemption to satisfying the visa requirements.

If one of the exemptions apply to you as the primary applicant, then you need to pay the SVAC if you also do not have ‘functional’ English language ability.

This fee is paid at the time of decision so your case officer will contact you at the time that the payment is required.

As the primary applicant, if you don’t have functional English language ability, then the SVAC is $8,520. For other adult dependents that can’t demonstrate functional English, the SVAC is $4,520.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are you sure that an IELTS or OET result is only valid for 3 years?
A: For the purpose of a 186 or 187 visa application, yes

Q: Are you sure that both Academic or General Training IELTS examinations are accepted?
A: Yes

Q: Can I complete an IELTS or OET examination after lodgement and submit that?
A: No. You can only rely on an IELTS or OET result from an examination that was completed before the application is lodged

Q: For an IELTS examination, if I have a high overall score, but did not achieve the specific requirement for some of the test components, will this be sufficient?
A: No

Q: If I do not meet the English language requirement and I lodge my application anyway, can the Department approve it?
A: You need to satisfy all the relevant eligibility requirements. The Department will not approve an application that does not satisfy all the requirements

Q: I don’t satisfy any of the above exemptions, but I have clear evidence of my English language ability (e.g. I’ve worked in an English speaking country for a number of years, I’ve completed a number of years of study but don’t fit any of the exemptions outlined, I have professional membership, I’ve completed other English language examinations etc.), am I exempted from IELTS?
A: The only exemptions are both outlined above. If you don’t satisfy any of the exemptions, then you need to complete an English examination and achieve the scores required

Q: Do dependent 457 visa applicants need to satisfy any English language requirement?
A: Not for the purposes of the visa application (they may need this if they want to work in certain occupations in Australia)

Q: I am the primary applicant but I do not satisfy the relevant English requirement. Can I pay the SVAC instead?
A: No – as the primary applicant, you need to meet the English language requirement. If you do not meet the English language requirement – then one of the exemptions outlined above must apply to you

Client reviews


Hassan · September 1, 2019 at 8:49 pm

Hello my name is Hassan. I apply for AAT tribunal because my 187 rsms visa refused. I need 6 bands each but i got 5.5. Overall. I have english letter for 6 years studies in secondary and higher education.My nomination is approved already. Only my visa refused because of english. If i will submit my 6 years english letter then AAT consider my letter right.

    My Access Australia · September 3, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Hasan,
    You can only use 5 years of study to satisfy English under the TRT stream – please see above post.
    Please see Contact Us page and in relation to our Consultation Service – feel free to contact us if you need advice in relation to your visa options.

Elio · August 29, 2019 at 10:11 pm

I’ve applied for the 187 visa and submitted Ann iELTS that was 6.5 and 7 in everything except written English (5.5). The department has written to say they’re not approving my visa. I’m from
Italy so don’t meet any of the exemptions. I’ve worked here for years and completed higher education here including TAFE studies.
On what grounds could I successfully appeal the decision?

    My Access Australia · August 31, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Elio,
    Sorry but I can’t think that you can be successful with an appeal due to the strict nature of the English requirement – you must satisfy this when you lodge your application so unfortunately you can’t complete English exams now post lodgement to satisfy this requirement.

      Elio · August 31, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks for the reply. They’ve actually not declined my application, they’ve just outlined the English requirement and said that it looks like I haven’t met the “competent English” requirement. They invited me to reply with a comment. I wondered what I could include in my comment? Thanks

        My Access Australia · September 3, 2019 at 12:57 pm

        Please see Contact Us page and in relation to our Consultation Service – feel free to contact us if you need advice.

Reshniel · August 27, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Hi is five years secondary school reference stating all studies were done in english is still excepted for TRTS to 186 and if yes, does immgration can still as for Ilets 6. And does on reference it should say that I was full time secondary school student plus number of hours of study has to be mentioned also.

    My Access Australia · August 31, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Reshniel,
    Please see above post which explains the current English requirement and exemeptions.

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