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The Australian Government announced new English language requirements for partner visas. We’ll help you with information about English language, what ‘proficient English’ is, and where you can find reliable information.

What is a Partner Visa?

The Partner visa allows a partner or spouse of an Australian citizen, or Australian permanent resident, to live in Australia. A Partner visa (subclass 801) is a temporary visa which can lead to a permanent Partner visa (subclass 820).

What are the proposed changes to the Partner Visa?

In October 2020, the Australian Federal Government released its budget. In this budget document, the Australian Government proposed English language requirements for partner visas in Australiaexternal icon.

What do these changes mean for you?

Department of Home Affairs proposes that new partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors require to have a functional level English. Or, these applicants must demonstrate that they made reasonable efforts to learn English. 

What is functional English for a partner visa?

For immigration to Australia, the Department of Home Affairs requires functional English. But, what is functional English? And, what do you have to do to show functional English?

Functional English is an overall IELTS band score of at least 4.5

When you do an IELTS test, we will score your Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking. Of course, we’ll tell you what examiners look for. And how your test is marked. We’ll also show you how your overall band score is calculated.

How do you get an IELTS band 4.5 for functional English?

What is considered a reasonable effort to learn English?

You can demonstrate this through, for example, the completion of 500 hours of free English language classes through the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)external icon.

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When do you need to meet this new language requirement?

Most partner visas are a provisional visa of two years before becoming eligible for a permanent visa. The requirement will have to be met at the time of the granting of the permanent visa. But, the Government doesn’t expect these changes until late 2021.

When do the new rules for partner visas start?

These rulesexternal icon are proposed to come into effect from late 2021. From then, new partner visa applicants will need to demonstrate a functional level of English. Or you will need to show that you made reasonable efforts to learn English. This will also apply to the sponsors of applicants if they are permanent residents.

How do you prove functional English for a partner visa?

When you apply for a visa, you may have to prove you have functional English. So, you can show the Department of Home Affairs evidence that:

  • you are a citizen of and hold a valid passport issued by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland; or

  • that your English has been assessed as functional by an Australian Adult Migrant English Program service provider; or

  • you completed a degree, a higher degree, a diploma or a trade certificate in an institution in or outside Australia that required at least two years of full-time study and all instructions were in English; or

  • when you undertook your primary, secondary or tertiary education in Australia (specific time limits apply); or

  • in the 12 months before you applied for the visa, you got the required score in an English language proficiency test, such as IELTS General Training.

Immigration and the law

Legislation about immigration changes frequently. It’s important to check the Australian Department of Home Affairsexternal icon website for changes that may apply to you. If you are interested in Australian student visas, work visas, or looking to migrate permanently, you need to lodge an application with the Australian Government. You may want to consider getting support from a lawyer or migration agent. However, you can also get free adviceexternal icon for student visas.

What is your proficiency level?

Even without doing a high-stakes English language test, you can get an indication of your proficiency level with IELTS Progress Check.

  • IELTS Progress Check comes with an official feedback report
  • Get an overall indicative band score for each section of the test

IELTS band scores for migration

IELTS scores required for permanent residency and other Australian immigration visas below

Functional English

If your visa application requires you to show you have Functional English, you need to have an overall IELTS score of 4.5. Not sure what this means? Read our explanation of IELTS band scores. IELTS can help you achieve this score with free support tools.


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Just remember, this is guide only. The IELTS score you require will depend on which visa you need when moving to Australia. Find out what IELTS score you need at the Department of Home Affairs. Before you book your IELTS test, we recommend that you check with your university, workplace or Australian Government in order to understand the level of skill you need to demonstrate, and which version of IELTS you need.

How will the IELTS Masterclass help you?

Join us online or face-to-face at a free IELTS Masterclass near you. Presented by an IELTS expert, the free IELTS Masterclass will help you:

  • Improve your skills in IELTS Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking
  • Understand common IELTS mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Understand how IELTS is scored and the assessment criteria
  • Ask the IELTS expert anything you’ve wanted to know!