Primary applicant English requirement


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


  Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 6 6 6 6
TOEFL iBT 12 13 21 18
PTE Academic 50 50 50 50


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.



Exemption – 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.


Exemption (Temporary Residence Transition stream only) – Completing 5 years of study


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.



Labour Agreement


Primary applicants under the Labour Agreement stream must also demonstrate Competent English ability, unless your sponsoring employer/business has a Labour Agreement that provides a lower English requirement.


Family members who are 18 or older – Functional English language ability


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 component Average test score
PTE Academic 30


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


Please firstly see FAQ and prior comments post which may answer your queries

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Hi Peng ,
I wanna apply 186 transition stream. I’ve five year study in Australia. I did diploma of hospitality 2 year and 2 year another diploma and 1 year business management diploma in Australia. Can it’s works for 186 visa or i need 6 band .


Hello, my company won at AAT and nomination approved. My lawyer preparing my 186 visa application. English requirements changed to all score 6. I already have the letter to certify 7 years Secondary school was delivered in English. Also, I will renew my British National (Overseas) Passport this week. Can I exempt the English test ? I have no confidence to pass the English test. Thanks


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.


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?


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

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