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The English Language Requirement For Students

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

Today, the Home Office released new guidance on the English language requirement for students. This guidance replaces previous guidance on the English language requirement for students which was contained within the ‘Tier 4 of the Points-Based System – Policy Guidance’ documentation. 

The rules governing how applicants are to meet the English language requirement are set out in ‘Appendix English Language’ of the Immigration Rules. Student applicants need to show proficiency in all four of the following elements:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Listening

How can the English Language Requirement be met?

In summary, a student can meet the English language requirement in one of the following ways: 

  • If the requirement has been met in a previous application, an applicant will not need to provide further evidence showing that the English language requirement is met;
  • Where the applicant is from a ‘majority English speaking country’ (see below), they will automatically meet the English language requirement;
  • If an applicant holds an academic qualification, such as a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree, obtained in the UK which has been taught in English, they will likely meet the English language requirement. Degrees obtained abroad may also satisfy the requirement if the relevant degree meets a recognised standard;
  • An applicant may be required to sit an English language test in order to demonstrate they have the requisite skills;
  • Where an applicant has obtained a GCSE or A’ Level English qualification they may meet the English language requirement if the qualification was awarded by the appropriate body and was obtained whilst the applicant was at school in the UK under the age of 18;
  • It may also be possible to meet this requirement if an applicant is applying for a course of study at degree level or higher and obtain a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ (“CAS”) which confirms the higher education provider has assessed the applicant’s English language ability and further confirms how they have assessed it. The CAS must confirm that the required level of English language has been met;
  • If applying for a short-term study abroad programme of up to 6 months, a student will be considered to have met the English language requirement if the course is at the required level and it is confirmed that the course will lead to an academic qualification at UK Bachelor degree level or above. 

Do any exemptions apply?

In general terms, applicants under 18 or over 65 are usually exempt from meeting the English language requirement. Applicants with a physical or mental condition which prevents them from meeting the requirement are also usually exempt. 

Specifically, students are exempt if any of the following apply: 

  1. The applicant has been assessed by their sponsor (a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance) to have met the English language requirement; 
  2. The applicant was exempt from part of the English language test due to a disability but their sponsor confirms they meet the required level of  English language to complete their course; or
  3. The student applicant has been identified as a “gifted student” under the Gifted Student concession. 

What is considered to be a ‘majority English speaking country’?

The following countries are listed in the Immigration Rules as ‘majority English-speaking countries’. Therefore, if an applicant is a national of any of the following countries, the English language requirement will be satisfied:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

Gherson has extensive experience in assisting students obtain UK visas and are able to advise and assist in respect of the English language requirement with regard to an applicant’s specific circumstances. Please contact us should you wish to discuss your situation in detail.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2020

Sarah Green 

  Sarah Green

  Immigration Consultant in our corporate team

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