English Language Requirement – UK visas

English Language Requirement | UK Immigration | Understand English language requirements

Understanding English Language Requirements For UK visas

If you’re interested in obtaining a visa to live, work or study in the UK, you may need to prove your understanding of the English language. Depending on the visa that you are applying for, you may need to take an English language test to demonstrate that you can speak English proficiently. The laws around English language requirements can get a little complicated, with some visas having higher requirements than others.

Here is some useful information about the English language requirements relating to different types of UK visas. You may need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) before being able to apply for a UK visa, however, some exemptions mean you might not have to.

What is the SELT?

The Secure English Language Test is a standard recognised test that focuses on an individual’s ability to speak and understand English. Although there are other English language tests available, the SELT is a test that is recognised by the UK government and is, therefore, the best test to take if you’re hoping to secure a visa.

The purpose of the SELT

The SELT’s purpose is to identify individuals that do not have a sufficient understanding of the English language to successfully live, work or study in the UK. For many, a poor understanding of the language can make it difficult to properly integrate into society and may cause problems when it comes to obtaining work, studying or in day-to-day life.

Different types of testing

Your understanding of the English language doesn’t have to be as strong for certain visas. Testing is broken into two categories:

  1. Speaking and listening tests
  2. Speaking, listening, reading and writing tests

For partner or parent visas, a speaking and listening test is sufficient. This also applies to sportsperson visas, indefinite leave to remain, representatives of an overseas business and citizenship. Those looking to obtain citizenship, however, must also take a test based around UK history and values, traditions, laws and government. This is known as the “Life In The UK” test.

Visas requiring comprehensive speaking, listening, reading and writing tests.

Those applying for student visas, skilled worker visas, the innovator route, start-up route, or as a minister of religion will need to complete a test that includes reading and writing as well as speaking and listening.


Although the visa that you are applying for may require you to take one of the above tests, several exemptions are important to keep in mind. If you’re under 18 or over 65, then you will not be expected to prove your ability to speak, read or write in English. Furthermore, many predominantly English speaking countries are automatically exempt from testing. If you’re from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the Republic of Ireland then you will not need to take a test to apply for a visa.

Additionally, those from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana or Jamaica are also not required to complete the SELT. This is also true for individuals from St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

Also, if an individual has already obtained a bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or PhD that has been taught in English or has required the individual to research in English, then this will usually be enough to be exempt the individual from English language testing.

Medical exemption

If you are unable to take a SELT due to medical reasons, then you may also be granted an exemption. For this to apply, you’ll need to obtain a note from a General Practitioner detailing the physical or mental health condition that prevents you from taking part in the test.

SELT and settlement visas

If you’re applying for a settlement visa, then you won’t be required to take a SELT. There are many examples of settlement visas that do not require individuals to take part in testing. These include settlement visas that are applied for as a result of domestic violence as the partner of a British citizen and for partners of a deceased British citizen.

Furthermore, an applicant who is an adult-dependent of a UK settled individual who is also a refugee or is under humanitarian protection is also not expected to take part in Secure English Language Testing. This is also the case for any refugees living in the UK or any individual with humanitarian protection.

Anyone with discretionary leave or Commonwealth citizens that are on discharge from HM Forces, any retired people of independent means with leave to reside in the UK, highly-skilled migrants under the HSMP program or those with exceptional circumstances will also be exempt from any English language requirements.

UK Study Visa language exemptions

Studying for a degree in the UK requires applicants to understand the English language enough to be taught in it. Although the UK study visa requires individuals to demonstrate their understanding of the English language through speaking, listening, reading and writing tests, there are several exemptions for those in certain circumstances.

Any international students that do not need a UK Study Visa and are coming to the UK from Switzerland, EEA or inside the EU do not need to demonstrate their understanding of English. This also applies to international students that have been admitted to study at a higher degree level or those that have studied any subject for a minimum of 6 months in the UK in the past 2 years. As with other visas, any student coming from an English speaking country will also not be expected to prove their understanding of English.

Finally, those that are coming to the UK for a short period (11 months or less) to learn English will not be required to take a test. This is also the case for any student under the age of 18 entering the UK on a Tier 4 Child Student Visa.

Although individuals in the above categories do not need to take the SELT to be accepted for UK study visas, it’s important to remember that educational institutions will have separate English language requirements for admission.

Get in touch today

If you are not sure about how you can meet the English language requirement  for a UK visa, you can get in touch with us and we can assess your case and confirm which english language test you need to undertake. Our experienced immigration lawyers will then apply for your relevant visa application to ensure you have the best chance of success. Get in touch with a member of our team today to learn more about the visa routes available to move to the UK.


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