New language testing arrangements for UK visas

Thursday 19 March 2015


Degree students for UK unaffected by UKVI changes 



  • The UK government has announced important changes to Secure English Language Tests (SELT) for visa purposes;
  • IELTS and the new test IELTS Life Skills have been approved for UK visas that require proof of English language level;
  • Tier 4 UK student visa rules remain unchanged. 


The UK government has announced important changes to language testing for visa applications, reducing the number of tests accepted for visa purposes and bringing in new requirements for the way the tests will be administered.

IELTS – the world’s most popular test of English for higher education and global migration – has been approved for all UK visas that require applicants to provide proof of their level of English. This continues the important role which IELTS has long played in language testing for immigration in the UK and other countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Under the new arrangements, IELTS tests for UK visa applications will be offered throughout the year in more than 100 key locations throughout the world, and a new test – IELTS Life Skills – will be introduced for people who need to prove their speaking and listening skills at level A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

IELTS tests for visa purposes can only be taken at authorised centres and the centre must follow procedures specified by the UK government. When a test is booked, the customer must specify what the test is for and ensure that the centre is authorised to run tests for this purpose. 

IELTS tests for UK Visas and Immigration are managed by the IELTS SELT Consortium, which comprises British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. 

Those who are applying for a Tier 4 student visa to a Highly Trusted / Tier 4 Sponsor (HTS) to study for a bachelor or postgraduate degree are required to meet the English language level set by the institution. All British universities and colleges accept IELTS results. This means students can apply with an IELTS result from any of the 1,000 IELTS test locations worldwide unless their institution has additional requirements. See for a list of test locations. 

IELTS, which is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment, has played a key role in language testing for immigration purposes throughout its 25 year history and is recognised by more than 9,000 organisations around the world including universities and employers in many countries, as well as by professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies. More than 2.5 million IELTS tests were taken in 2014 in more than 140 countries. 

The Tier 4 student visa rules, current at the time of writing, detail the specific arrangements for those applying to study with Highly Trusted Sponsors, which are listed at this link: 

Notes to Editor

For further media information, please contact:  


Kristen McNicoll

British Council




About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. 

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the Arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant-in-aid provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover, which last year was £781m. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.


 About British Council IELTS


Candidates are tested in listening, reading, writing and speaking. All tests are scored on a banded system from 1 (the lowest) through to 9 (the highest band).

IELTS offers a choice of two versions, to serve both academic and non-academic purposes. IELTS Academic measures English language proficiency needed for an academic, higher learning environment. The tasks and texts are accessible to all test-takers, irrespective of their subject focus. IELTS General Training measures English language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. The tasks and texts reflect both workplace and social situations. General Training is suitable for immigration purposes to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

A sample of government and professional associations who recognise or require applicants to hold an IELTS test result include: 

·         Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)

·         Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)

·         UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)

·         Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and

          National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), USA

·         International Monetary Fund