The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick...


Thankfully, the Home Office does not test your language skills based on how well you can say The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick. 

However, meeting the English language requirement is not as simple as it is made out to be. For the uninitiated, it would be reasonable to think that the UKVI will accept any English language test certificate.  

Practitioners and migrants who have experienced the application process will know that within the English language requirement, there are different ways an applicant can meet the requirement. 

The starting point is to find out what ways can an applicant meet the English language requirement. The rules regarding English language requirement are stated within the Immigration Rules Appendix English Language

There are 4 main ways to meet this requirement: 

1. The applicant is a national of a majority English speaking country. The countries that are included can be found within the rules. Even if the applicant is a dual national, they can still rely on one of those nationalities if the country is listed within the rules. The applicant must have a valid passport of the country they intend to rely on to prove they are a national of a majority English speaking country; 

2. The applicant has an academic qualification which was taught outside the UK, the course was taught in English and the qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelors degree or higher. The Home Office will only accept the overseas qualification if it is accompanied by a statement of comparability and confirmation that the course was taught in English; both of which are issued by ECCTIS (formally known as the UKNARIC); 

3. The applicant has GCSE or A level qualifications when they attended a UK based school while they were aged under 18 years old; 

4. Passing an approved UKVI the English language test at an approved test centre.

Most applicants will need to book an English language test to prove they meet the English language requirement. Generally, the point based system visa routes require an applicant to prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to a minimum level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. The family route require a lower level standard of English. 

The Home Office will only accept certificates from approved test providers. These differ slightly depending where an applicant takes their test, but the approved providers are: 

  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson
  • Trinity College London (in the UK only) 
  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd (outside the UK only)

To further complicate matters, the applicant must book the test at an approved test centre and the Home Office will only accept the following tests: 

  • IELTS SELT Consortium: ‘IELTS for UKVI’ or ‘IELTS Life Skills’
  • LanguageCert: ‘LanguageCert International ESOL SELT’
  • Pearson: ‘PTE Academic UKVI’ or ‘PTE Home’
  • PSI Services: ‘Skills for English UKVI’
  • Trinity College London: ‘Secure English Language Tests for UKVI’ – Integrated Skills in English (ISE) or Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)

Failing to book at an approved centre and/or the correct test (even though the questions may be exactly the same), will most likely result in a refusal from the Home Office. 

The test results are valid for 2 years and are verified electronically when an applicant submits the visa application. Once an applicant is granted a visa, they can continue to rely on the fact that they have met the English language requirement previously.

The English language requirement is quite often the condition which is overlooked. It can cause major inconvenience to the applicant if it is discovered too late that the wrong English language test was taken. It is important to bear in mind that not all countries have UKVI approved test centres and therefore will require an applicant to possibly travel to take the tests. 

Where time allows, it is always better to review the applicable immigration rules and plan ahead. 

But at least you are not tested through tongue twisters like The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick. 

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