What is the English language requirement? Do skilled worker visa applicants need to sit an English language test to get a UK work visa?
Even those who plan to come to work in the UK and already speak English fluently fear the visa eligibility criteria and the English language requirement. That isn’t surprising as everyone fears the unknown and there are lots of uncertainties surrounding the end of free movement and the introduction of the new UK points based Immigration system. In this blog our work visa and sponsor licence solicitors look at the English language requirement and answer your questions on what it is and who has to meet it to come to the UK to work.
UK work visa solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and can help individuals with their work visa queries and UK employers requiring advice on sponsor licences and skilled worker visas. For expert advice from the specialist team of work visa and sponsor licence solicitors call 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
What is the English language requirement?
Immigration solicitors say that there is a lot of confusion about the English language requirement for UK work visas and work permits and the ‘knowledge of English language’ but the English language requirement for work visas is contained in ‘Appendix English Language’. The appendix covers work visa applications for the skilled worker visa, representative of an overseas business visa, global talent visa, start-up visa and innovator visa.
For some work visa applicants, by virtue of their nationality, they are assumed to meet the English language requirement and therefore don’t need to take any further action. That’s the case, whatever their English language skills.
Many UK work permit applicants assume that if they come from a predominately English speaking country (where either English is a majority language or even the official language) that they will automatically meet the English language requirement. However, that isn’t necessarily the case as the country needs to be included on a Home Office list of designated countries and you need to be a citizen of the designated English majority country for you to be assumed to meet the English language requirement.
Which work visa applicants meet the English language requirement by virtue of their nationality?
The Home Office produce a list of designated countries and if you are a citizen of a designated country applying for a work visa there is an assumption that you meet the English language requirement without any further investigation or information needed. The current list of designated countries are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- The USA
- Trinidad and Tobago.
What are the rules on dual nationality and the English language requirement?
If you enjoy dual nationality with one of the countries on the Home Office designated list then you can rely on that nationality to meet the English language requirement. Both the dual nationality countries don’t have to be on the Home Office designated list of countries.
How does a work visa applicant prove that they meet the English language requirement on the basis of their nationality?
If you are a citizen from one of the specified countries then you can prove your nationality through provision of your passport. If you can't produce your passport then the Home Office has said in their guidance that some other types of documents are acceptable, such as a current national identity document or an original letter (rather than photocopy) from the government or embassy of the designated country confirming the work visa applicant’s full name, date of birth and nationality.
Meeting the English language requirement with a degree qualification from a UK university
If you aren’t a citizen from a designated country then you may still be easily able to meet the English language requirement if you studied in the UK. The Immigration Rules say that if a work visa applicant secured a university degree (a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree or a PhD) in the UK then this is evidence that the applicant meets the English language requirement.
Evidence is required of the UK degree qualification and the Home Office will accept the following paperwork:
- A degree certificate that must include the work visa applicant’s name, the degree or award, the date of the award and the name of the university or institution that granted the qualification
- An academic reference on official stationery from the university or institution that gave out the qualification but the reference must detail the work visa applicant’s name, the name of the degree or award and its date and state the date that the certificate will be issued or if the applicant has already graduated but doesn’t have a degree certificate that the university can't provide a duplicate certificate
- An academic transcript that is on official stationery from the university that states the work visa applicant’s name, the name of the university and course title and confirms the date the degree or award certificate will be issued or states that the university won't reissue the degree certificate.
Meeting the English language requirement with a degree qualification from a non-UK university
If a work visa applicant isn’t a citizen of a designated country in the Home Office list but did secure a relevant degree or qualification in one of the specified countries (save for Canada) then the qualification will meet the uk work visa English language requirement but additional evidence will be needed, namely confirmation from the National Recognition Information Centre (referred to as NARIC) that the qualification is equivalent to at least a UK Bachelor’s degree. The confirmation (referred to as the Academic Qualification Level Statement or AQUALS) is only needed if the university or institution is outside the UK and on the designated country list.
If the work visa applicant isn’t a citizen of a designated country in the Home Office list and did not secure a relevant degree or qualification in one of the specified countries but does have a non-UK based degree then they could still met the English language requirement by virtue of having a degree from the non-designated country (or Canada). To meet the English language requirement they will need to:
- Provide evidence of the degree or relevant qualification and
- Obtain confirmation from NARIC that the qualification is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree (referred to as AQUALS) and
- Obtain confirmation from NARIC that the qualification or degree was taught in English.
If a work visa applicant isn’t a citizen of a designated country or wasn’t educated to degree level in the UK or in a designated country or their degree wasn’t taught in English then they can still pass the English language requirement by sitting a secure English language test.
What is a secure English language test?
A secure English Language test is one that is carried out by an authorised provider on the Home Office approved list of English language test conductors. Obtaining a test certificate from a body that isn’t on the approved list won't help a work visa applicant secure a skilled worker visa. The test has to be conducted at the right Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) level for the visa applicant or above the minimum level (for most work visa applications that is B2).
Once a test has been passed by the work visa applicant the test is valid for two years. The successful English language test candidate receives a reference from the approved tester to evidence that they have passed the English language test and includes the reference on their work visa application.
Work visa solicitors say that if you are unsure about whether you will be required to sit an English language test as part of your work visa application process or whether your nationality or qualifications mean that you aren’t required to sit the test then it is best to get specialist legal advice from work visa specialists on your visa options and the evidence you will need to produce in support of your work visa application.
UK work visa solicitors
OTS Solicitors specialise in all aspects of immigration law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. For work visa advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.