New English language rules for Australian partner visas

New immigration requirements proposed in October 2020

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 Australia.

 

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 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).

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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 rules 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 demonstrate a ‘functional’ level of English?

At the moment, you already need to meet English language requirements to apply for some student visas, skilled visas, or permanent visas. We have a full list of Australian visas that require you to demonstrate a certain level of English. This level depends on the visa you apply for. Or, for example, if you want to apply for bonus points for a points-based visa. The Department of Home Affairs currently lists 5 categories of English language proficiency.

  • Functional English
  • Vocational English
  • Competent English
  • Proficient English
  • Superior English

More on IELTS for Migration

IELTS test takers share their stories

Why did you take IELTS and how did you prepare for it?

I took IELTS because for my PR visa application purposes. I took classes for IELTS preparation. Every chance I had I have been practicing on my writing and reading skills.

What is your number one tip for learning and practicing English?

Watching movies and reading English books especially academic and scientific articles helped me develop my English skills.

Why you would recommend IELTS to friends and family?

When I was preparing for the test, I learnt a lot. I learned more English while preparing for IELTS than all the other classes I had. Also, the big support I had from IELTS customer service, as I received a very prompt support from IELTS team for my second IELTS test results.

Meet Chien-Yuan from Australia

Meet Simone from Brisbane

IELTS band scores for migration

If you are applying for an Australian work visa, a student visa, or Permanent Residency, chances are you need to show evidence of your English language skills.

IELTS is the most respected language test in the world, and we can help you demonstrate your English language proficiency for your Australian visa English test.

View our 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.

Vocational English

If your visa application requires you to show you have Vocational English, you need to have at least an IELTS score of 5.0 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing). Not sure what this means? Read our explanation of IELTS band scores. IELTS can help you achieve this score with free support tools.

Access IELTS support tools

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.

Competent English

If your visa application requires you to show you have Competent English, you need to have at least an IELTS score of 6.0 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing). Not sure what this means? Read our explanation of IELTS band scores. IELTS can help you achieve this score with free support tools.

Access IELTS support tools

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.

Proficient English

If your visa application requires you to show you have Proficient English, you need to have at least an IELTS score of 7.0 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing). Not sure what this means? Read our explanation of IELTS band scores. IELTS can help you achieve this score with free support tools.

Access IELTS support tools

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.

Superior English

If your visa application requires you to show you have Superior English, you need to have at least an IELTS score of 8.0 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing). Not sure what this means? Read our explanation of IELTS band scores. IELTS can help you achieve this score with free support tools.

Access IELTS support tools

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.

What is your proficiency level?

Even without doing a high-stakes English language test, you can still get an indication of your English language level. IELTS Progress Check comes with an official feedback report, including an overall indicative band score and an indicative band score for each section of the test (Reading, Listening, Writing & Speaking).

Get an indication of your English proficiency level

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 do the IELTS band scores mean?

The IELTS Academic and General Training IELTS test are both graded to a 9 band scale. For each section of the test (Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking) you will receive a band score from 1 – 9. The average of this score will form your overall IELTS band score. This may be a whole score (e.g. 5, 6) or half (e.g. 7.5, 8.5). The table below rates each band score against an English skill level. To find out how your test is marked, view IELTS scoring and marking.

Band score
Language level
Band 9 Expert user
Band 8 Very good user
Band 7 Good user
Band 6 Competent user
Band 5 Modest user
Band 4 Limited user
Band 3 Extremely limited user
Band 2 Intermittent user
Band 1 Non-user
Band 0 Did not attempt the test

View a detailed description of the IELTS band scores

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.

 

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Immigration and the law

Legislation about immigration changes frequently. It’s important to check the Australian Department of Home Affairs 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 advice for student visas.