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English Language Criteria for Student Visas

An application for a student visa (subclass 500) needs to be accompanied by sufficient evidence of English where appropriate. Whilst evidence of English language is not a time of application criteria, applicants seeking to meet the primary criteria for grant of a student visa must provide evidence of English language proficiency for the visa to be granted. The maximum time periods in which an English test must be taken is either two years before the application is lodged or two years before a decision is made on the application. The Department of Home Affairs will accept the following tests to satisfy the English language requirements:

  • IELTS Test


  • Certificate in Advanced English

  • PTE and;

  • OET

Applicants requiring evidencing English and are subject to regular evidentiary requirements are required to provide evidence of achieving the minimum relevant score with a test provider specified in the latest instrument. Applicants identified as having regular evidentiary requirements at lodgement, will be required to provide evidence of English language proficiency as specified above. The policy is clear that those who do not provide evidence of meeting this requirement can be refused a visa, although the processing officer may choose to request the required documents from the applicant.

If an application is refused, an appeal is possible. Based on the latest statistics published by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), approximately 7,166 lodgements in May 2018 are student visa refusals which make up approximately 30% of the overall applications for an appeal received by the AAT. The outcome of review by the AAT takes around 392 days with a median of 428 days.

It is possible to seek exemption from the above-mentioned English language requirements if the applicant can present a passport issued by:

  • United Kingdom

  • United States of America

  • Canada

  • New Zealand

  • Republic or Ireland

Students holding passport from the magic five countries will not be required to provide further evidence.

Where an applicant can demonstrate five years of study in English undertaken in one or more of the following countries:

  • Australia;

  • Canada;

  • New Zealand;

  • South Africa;

  • the Republic of Ireland;

  • the United Kingdom; or

  • the United States of America.

The Department of Home Affairs has moved to streamlined processing of student visa applications which means that an application may be finalised without a request for further information from the case officer assessing the application. Therefore, it is advisable that all applicants submit fully documented applications and include evidence of English at the time of lodgement. Currently, student visas take approximately 1 to 4 weeks to process.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is of a general nature only and does not constitute immigration advice. For more detailed and case specific information or advice, please contact SCA Connect.

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