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


Ree · July 1, 2018 at 9:45 pm

Hi Peng
My partner is on 457 that’s was approved in 2015 n will be completing 2 years with the same employer next year. Will he be eligible for 186 direct stream? We are confused with all the latest changes. Appreciate your assistance.

    Peng Cheng · July 2, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Ree,
    Your husband may be able to apply under the TRT stream after 2 years of work with his sponsor – please see:
    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.

Kay · June 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

Hi Peng,
Im applying the 482 visa.. now in processing..
I do not have IELT results but have met one of the exemptions (5 years higher education in English), I have attached the letter issued by the university (in Hong Kong)…but wonder if it is approved…(I lodged since 16 June)..
Normally, when I will be told if my English exemption is approved after lodging the application?
Wonder if IMMI would make the decision without asking for IELT scores?

    Peng Cheng · July 1, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Hi Kay,
    Generally speaking, the Department will send you a request asking for this if your English examination result is required and this hasn’t been provided with the application.
    The Department can decide your application just based on the information and documents provided, but generally speaking they will send a request for this rather than refusing the application on the basis of the English requirement.

      Kay · July 3, 2018 at 7:51 am

      Thanks for your reply Peng!
      the IMMI account requested us to ‘confirm all documents are provided”
      my status has changed to ‘further assessment’
      Now, I am waiting for the police check from Hong Kong Police.
      That’s why I wonder when the ‘request of english test’ is sent ? as if they tell me the request after all documents are confirmed, the entire process will be delayed, or they normally send right after I submitted documents for english exemption?

        Peng Cheng · July 4, 2018 at 2:34 pm

        Generally speaking, your case officer will ask for this after they assess the information and documents that you have provided, if this is required for your application.

Mush · June 25, 2018 at 8:57 pm

I am on 457 visa completed my 3 years with same employers I need to apply 186 TRT stream I have 3 years of Australian education in English and overseas bachelor degree in English do I have exempt from competent English as I have all in

Please help me out waiting for response

    Peng Cheng · June 26, 2018 at 12:26 am

    Hi Mush,
    Please see above post:
    As the primary applicant in a Temporary Residence Transition visa application, you are exempted from having to demonstrate ‘Competent English’ if you have completed at least 5 years of full-time study in a secondary (high school) and/or higher education institution where all of the tuition was delivered in English. You may need to obtain a letter from the relevant institution confirming that the instructing language of all your studies was English.

      Mush · June 27, 2018 at 5:23 am

      Hello peng Cheng

      Is overseas education count as exempted from having to demonstrate competent English because I have 3 years Fulltime diploma studies in australia and overseas bachelor degree got references letter from overseas stating that all my bachelor degree is in English thanks

        Peng Cheng · June 27, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        You can count overseas qualifications towards the 5 years if the teaching language is English.

Steven · June 17, 2018 at 10:34 pm

Hi Peng,

TRT – Regarding to my English exemption, I had studied 2 years in Commercial Cookery Certificate IV and Diploma of Hospitality, plus 3 years in Bachelor of Business in the same institution (All of these courses were linked together, between that I’ve got a small break about 3 weeks). Do I entitle to get English exemption? Will DOHA count exactly 5 years? Some people said that VET or Diploma are not higher education, so what degree is counted for higher education?

    Peng Cheng · June 18, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Hi Steven,
    You can count all secondary and/or higher education, with all tuition in English as per the Department’s below guidelines – hence certificate IV and diploma qualifications can count:

    5 years or more full-time study in secondary and/or higher education, with all tuition in English
    The applicant must have undertaken all studies, other than those that may relate to specific languages, in English. For example, if the course covered various subjects including Spanish and French as specific subjects, the instructions for all subjects other than Spanish and French must have been delivered in English.

    Note: Even though exempted for visa purposes from the English requirement, these applicants (and any secondary applicants who were 18 or over at the time of application) must still be assessed as to whether they have functional English – refer to Assessment of functional English.

    I’m sorry but the Department’s policy doesn’t specifically address your other question – the above is the complete exact of the Department’s current guidelines. You may wish to contact the Department about this.

Satis · June 9, 2018 at 3:45 am

Hi I am on 457 visa and I have completed 2 yrs from the same company. But lately they want to sell the business so I don’t know what to do .? What if I apply for new nomination , does new rules apply to me as my occupation is in short term list or the grandfathering rules apply for me . And the new owner with the new Abn wants to nominate me . As I am working in the same business ,same location, same job with same circumstances like before.???

    Peng Cheng · June 9, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Satis,
    I’m sorry but this is a rather complicated matter that you are asking about.
    Unfortunately I can’t provide advice just based on your comment information.
    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.

sumaiya · June 8, 2018 at 12:39 am

Hi ,
Im looking forward to lodge my 186 Ens visa soon. I have only scored 5 band each in my IELTS exam ( the requirement is 6 band each)
But my sponsor has a labour agreement of lower English requirment ,if so can i lodge my application with the IELTS 5 Score . Will the department approve my visa ?

    Peng Cheng · June 9, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Sumaiya,
    That would depend on your employer’s labour agreement terms, whether this agreement allows sponsorship for permanent residency visas, and the English requirement for the visa application.
    Your employer should have this information in their labour agreement.
    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.

Kevin · March 14, 2018 at 11:57 am

Hi there,
I want to apply 186 visa on 1 april 2018. Seems like the new rules would apply for me as my 457 visa was granted on 1 april 2016. I am unable to achieve competent english and came to know that exemption on english requirement is applying through TRT steam and studying 5 years full time on english medium will be eligible to apply for 186 visa. Is that true????? Please make me clear.

Pamela · February 24, 2018 at 9:09 pm

Hi Peng,

We are currently on a bridging visa (for a 457 visa). I am my husband’s dependent. We applied for the 457 visa onshore as we were not able to apply for the 187 visa as my husband could not get the required English scores. However, he is still having difficulties obtaining the required English scores for a 457 visa.

I got accepted into the Ph.D. scholarship program in one of the universities here in Australia. My question is, am I eligible to apply for a student visa?

Thank you very much.

All the best,

    Peng Cheng · March 5, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Sorry but I can’t provide advice in relation to your visa eligibility just based on your comment information.
    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.

Arafat · February 21, 2018 at 11:50 am

Hi, i applied for 187 rsms visa, my wife she is depandant, today we got her pte score, speaking: 29, listening :38, reading : 37 writing : 45. And overall : 38.

Is it okay for her? Or she need more score? Could u plz inform me.


Daniel · February 20, 2018 at 10:42 pm

At the moment I’m on 457 Visa, I got it on 22/06/16 and I’am going to apply for the 186 (PR) visa in 22/06/18.
I’m making approximately $90k a year.
I have scored in 15/03/16 my last IELTS 7.5 in speaking, 7 in reading, 5.5 in writing and 6 in listening.
I’m the main applicant and I don’t really want to do the test again.
Can I choose the SVAC fee insted of doing the IELTS test again.
Please advise.
Kind regards,

sujeewa Methruwan · February 8, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I’m a 457 visa holder and it was granted two years before. Now I’m going to apply Temporary Residency Transition by next April. I heard that there will be a new rule in coming March.
Pls tell me if I score IELTS 5 in each will be ok?

Pls confirm.


Peng Cheng · January 26, 2018 at 10:09 am

Hi Praveen,
Sorry but at least 6 in each in required – see above post.

Emad · January 24, 2018 at 8:13 am

Hi Peng ,
I have 457 and applied for 186 for me and my family as well, the nomination was already approved about 6 months ago , and today I have been asked to pay the secondary svac for my wife and I already paid and received the receipt, does that mean that my visa will be approved soon , and how long to wait for it after the payment.

    Peng Cheng · January 26, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Hi Emad,
    Department should be able to approve your applications in the next few weeks.

Ealia · June 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Hi Peng,

how is everything?

i applied for subclass 186 DE 2 days after my Employer applied for my nomination.
i was thinking without ielts exam and score i can pay SVAC and that’s done.
i received my acknowledgment letter that my application is valid and process started.
i haven’t heard anything until now.

i have never tried for english exam. what happens if i now get Ielts exam and can provide 6 in each band? and also what happens if i couldn’t provide the score? do they reject my application? why didn’t refuse me after lodging application before giving me acknowledgement letter?


    Peng Cheng · June 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Ealia,
    You can only pay the SVAC if an exemption outlined above applies – otherwise you can’t complete IELTS after lodgement, you must satisfy this requirement at the time of application or the application will be refused. DIAC have just assessed the application as valid, it can still be refused if the requirements aren’t met.

Kristy · June 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

Dear Peng
My husband is a 457 visa holder and we are applying for permanent residency. As a spouse, I am required to have a functional english. Do I still need to sit any IELTS if I have a Graduate Certificate of ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators)? I did my course for about 3 years and finished my exam in Malaysia. All classes were conducted in English. My certificate did not mention the time period for the course. Do I need to get a letter from the school that I attended? It has been more than 20 years since I left school.
Thank you.

studied English in London for 1 year ( I have a certificate for that) and I have an english Translator/Interpretor Certificate provided by Ministry of Education in my country of origin and plus I’m working approx since I landed in Australia.
thank you

    Peng Cheng · June 12, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Kristy,
    You may want to try giving all this evidence to the CO and see if they think this is functional English. Technically functional English is defined as:
    Functional English
    Other applicants aged 18 years and over must also provide prescribed evidence of at least functional English language proficiency.

    There are a number of ways a person can demonstrate having at least functional English. These include:
    · evidence of achieving an average band score of at least 4.5 based on the 4 components in an IELTS (General) test, conducted not more than 12 months before lodging the visa application or during processing of the visa application.
    · evidence of having achieved an ACCESS test score of at least 15 with a minimum of 3 for each of the 4 test components of listening, reading, writing and oral interaction in a test conducted not more than 12 months before lodging the visa application to migrate or at the time of the processing of the visa application to migrate
    · evidence that the person holds 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 for that award was conducted in English
    · evidence of having completed at least 5 years of secondary education at educational institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English
    · evidence of having completed all years of primary schooling and at least 3 years of secondary education in which all instruction was in English
    · evidence that the applicant has successfully completed 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
    · evidence that the applicant has been assessed as having functional English by an Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP) provider

Vanessa · May 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hi Peng,
I have a question regarding English requirements for 186 visas. I lodged my application in March and I attach a few documents proving that I have been in an English School for 2 years , did a PhD in English (but not the course work), worked two years in the UK and 2 years and a half here in Australia, in order to get exemption. This information was sufficient to give me my e457 visa two years ago when I came into the country and got exempted from the English test.

Now it seems that the information is not sufficient and I should provide the IELTS test. I am happy to do so and I have already applied to take it next week but obviously I have not done before lodging the application. What is the next step? Does it mean I have to withdraw my application? What does withdrawing means when the application is attached to sponsorship?
Thank you for your advice

    Peng Cheng · May 10, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Hi Vanessa,
    English is a time of application requirement – so you need to show that you meet the English requirement when the application is lodged – this since it is a ‘time of application requirement’.
    You can consider withdrawing the application (which doesn’t affect the nomination application which is separate) – or just wait to see what action DIAC might take, but this might just be to refuse the application.

manju · May 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm

hi peng, i got these points for english requirement from booklet 5.
i understand all the points but i couldn’t understand the third point(no.3) could you please explain me in easy way ,what’s that mean?

Functional English:

Ways to demonstrate this level of English language proficiency include:

• an average IELTS score of 4.5 for the 4 test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing). IELTS test scores are valid for 3 years.

• an Occupational English Test (OET) score which is at least equivalent to IELTS 4.5

• evidence you have been assessed by an Adult Migrant English Program provider in Australia as having functional English.

• completion of at least 5 consecutive years of full-time study in a secondary and/or higher education institution where all the tuition was delivered in English

• you hold a current passport from the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Canada or the Republic of Ireland.

    Peng Cheng · May 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Manju,
    It just means that if you need to demonstrate ‘functional english’, any one of the above is sufficient. So for over 18 dependent visa applicants, functional english is required.

Sarab · April 17, 2013 at 1:43 am

Hi Peng Cheng,

I m woking in Bendigo. My employer already have sponsor me for rsms 187. He lodge application for nomination and provided me TRN to apply For visa. As my visa is expiring in 3-4 days. I don’t have IELTS yet and some body advise me that I can lodge my visa application without IELTS. Normaly it take 6-7 months to open the file so i can sit in IELTS and attach with rhis application befor my file will open. Plz advise me is that realy possible.

    Peng Cheng · April 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Hi Sarab – English is a At the time of application – so you need the IELTS when you apply. I think providing an IETLS obatined after lodgement may lead to refusal (likely to lead to refusal in my opinion). You can’t use a letter from your boss to ask for an exemption – this won’t meet the requirement.

Ranjit Singh · March 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Hi Peng ,

i have recently finished my study in commercial cookery & want apply for RSMS as My boss is ready to sponsor me as cook in his restaurant witch in regional area . i got 5.5 overall score in IELTS I am bit worried if can i apply direct entry in RSMS . will SVAC applies on my application?


    Peng Cheng · March 21, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Hi Ranjit,
    IELTS requirement is 6 – you need this unless an exemption applies. You need to be exempt first, and then SVAC can apply. If you’re not exempted, you need IELTS of 6.

Jun · February 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi peng,

When it comes to the the English requirement with IELTS for RSMS (187), do they want academic or general IELTS? (or does it matter?)



    Peng Cheng · February 4, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Jun,
    Either is OK.

      Jun · February 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      Thanks peng!

Comments are closed.