English Language Requirement for UK Visa


The visa process for the UK is defined by a regulatory procedure set forth in the immigration law of country, which varies from visa category to category. The Home Office is responsible for handling all immigration related cases under the authority of the Secretary of State.

In relation to the English language and financial requirements, the conditions depends on the visa category (such as Tier one visa UK general category, UK graduate entrepreneur visa, Tier 2 general visa, UK Tier 1 investor visa etc.). Also being exempt to certain countries, the English language requirement mostly applies to persons with whom the UK government wishes to assess the language capabilities in order to determine whether the person would easily settle in the country. The financial requirements apply to almost all visa categories, and are used to assess whether the person is financially stable enough to support himself/herself in the UK.

The English Language Requirement for Tier 1 and Tier 2 Visa Categories 

For applicants applying on the Tier one visa UK and the Tier 2 visa, the English language requirements vary between categories and are defined through ‘levels’ which an applicant must score at a minimum if he/she wishes to be granted a visa. These levels are defined by the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language Learning which set the criteria which the UK government follows to assess an applicant’s language capabilities.

The levels required vary between categories, such as the Tier 1 general visa requiring a minimum C1 level while the UK Tier 1 entrepreneur requires a B1 level. Other similar levels included are the B1 level being required for the UK Tier 1 entrepreneur graduate visa, Tier 2 minister of religion visa, Tier 2 general visa; while an A1 level is required on the Tier 2 general visa (for some conditions) and Tier 2 sportsperson visa.

The conditions under which an A1 level is required on the Tier general visa include the applicant holding a work permit, a staff-member of a foreign-owned airline, a foreign newspaper or agency representative or an employee of a Jewish Agency.

However, applicants applying on the Tier 1 exceptional talent visa, UK Tier 1 investor visa or the Tier 2 intra-Company transfer visa are exempt from this requirement.

The Points Based System and English Language Requirement

The Points Based System is a system setup by the UK government to determine whether an individual meets all of the requirements of a visa or not. The points required vary from category to category and are awarded each time a requirement of the visa is fulfilled. One of these requirements being the English language, normally a total of 10 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she passes a relevant English language test and secures a grade that is acceptable on that specific visa category.

Normally, 10 points are awarded in case an applicant passes an English language test, fulfills any relevant transitional arrangement requirements, proves his/her degree to be an equivalent degree taught in the English language, or has already met the language requirement in a previous visa.

If the applicant proves to be a national of a country where English is the dominant language, he/she can be awarded 10 points. A passport will be needed to be shown to prove the applicant’s identity in this regard or any relevant travel document. In the case the applicant is unable to provide a passport in this regard; he/she can show a letter produced by his/her government confirming the nationality and full name.

In case the applicant proves his/her educational background relating to the Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree to have been taught in the English language, a total of 10 points are awarded to the applicant. However, the degree must be recognized under the proper regulative authrotiy of the UK government such as the UK NARIC along with confirming whether the applicant crosses a minimum C1 level grade with the degree. In the scenario where the applicant has recently completed his/her degree and has not yet received a degree, an equivalent transcript issued by the educational institute with the applicant’s name, educational institution’s name, the title of the degree, date of the degree being awarded, name of the educational institution and confirmation of the degree having been taught in English must be provided.

10 points are also awarded if the applicant gives the relevant language test that is recognized by the UK government, and secures the required grade.  

As such, 10 points are automatically secured by the applicant in case he/she had already filled the language requirement in a previous visa that was accepted.

Exemptions to the English Language Requirement

In case the applicant is over the age of 65, a mental or physical disability prevents him/her from meeting the language requirement, the English language requirement can be exempted. In the case the applicant has a medical disability, a signed letter from an authorized doctor must be submitted to serve as proof for the Home Office.

Any person who has been a victim of domestic violence of a partner who held UK nationality is also exempt from the language requirement.

In the scenario the applicant’s partner (including civil partners) or any other person who he/she was dependent upon passes away, the applicant does not need to fulfill the English language requirement.

A person between the ages of 18-64 who is the dependant of a person holding nationality of the UK is also exempt from this requirement. Other exemptions include being a refugee, seeking humanitarian protection, a retired person living in the UK under temporary leave and who is independent, a citizen of the commonwealth who has been discharged from Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (including a Gurkha), being on discretionary leave in the UK, or a case that the Home Office assesses to be of exceptional circumstances.

Do people applying for permanent settlement in the UK need to fulfill the English language requirement?

Yes, applicants applying for permanent residency in the country are also required to fulfill the language requirement. An interview in this regard can be conducted by the Home Office to assess the English language skills of the applicant, which he/she is obligated to attend. General questions about life in the United Kingdom can also be asked from the applicant.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for an interview to be only conducted for applicants applying for permanent residency as applicants on temporary stay can also be called in for an interview if its felt necessary by the Home Office for any further proof.

What is the “Life in the UK test”?

Similar to the English language requirement, the Life in the UK test is a test compulsory on any person who wishes to apply for permanent residency in the country. The test is conducted in a period of 45 minutes in which the applicant is questioned regarding his/her general knowledge of the United Kingdom including questions regarding British society, history, customs and other related information. The Home Office assesses the result of 24 questions that are asked in this test.

The Life in the UK test is conducted within the UK and was started in the year 2005 as a means to better integrate immigrants with British society. A total of 60 centers exist in the country where this test can be taken and applicants are required to a pay a fee of 50 pounds to take this test. Furthermore, the test is based on multiple choice questions.

Sections covering questions regarding the United Kingdom’s constitution, the common dialects of the country such as Scouse or Cockney, the age at which a person can purchase alcohol or cigarettes, and other such matters are covered. Furthermore, other topics include questions regarding different government institutions and what duties they perform, services given by local authorities etc. The test is held on a computer in one of the test centers and must be booked seven days prior to taking the test.

The Home Office recommends that applicants applying to give this test for the purpose of permanent settlement study well in advance before taking this test as it helps secure a higher grad on the test. Research and what to study should be focused towards content included in the official handbook issued by the government regarding this test. It costs 12.99 pounds. The Home Office advises candidates to study from there and the test contains information included in the handbook.

According to statistics collected by the Home Office, foreigners from English majority countries usually score a higher grade and do better in the test as 30% of citizens from non-English speaking countries usually fail the test. According to figures, countries with the highest passing rates include Canada, Zimbabwe, the United States of America, Nigeria and Australia while citizens from countries such as Bangladesh, Turkey and Iraq usually fail.

The purpose of the test is to show to the UK government that the applicant is capable of integrating with society in the UK and adequately settle permanently. When the applicant secures a high enough grade and passes the test, he/she can become eligible for permanent residence.

According to recent figures, the implementation of the English language requirement and Life in the UK test does not seem to have had a major effect on the naturalization rate.

More information regarding the Life in the UK test is given on the official website and the helpline available in this regard is listed as 0800 015 4245.