What are the IELTS tests for UK spouse visas in 2024?
The following are the IELTS tests for UK spouse visas in 2024:
- IELTS Life Skills – A1
- IELTS Life Skills – A2
- IELTS Life Skills – B1
- IELTS for UKVI (Academic)
- IELTS for UKVI (General Training)
There are two different versions of the IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic tests.
The IELTS for UKVI (General Training) and IELTS for UKVI (Academic) tests are specifically for those who want to rely on either of those tests to satisfy the English language requirement for UK visa applications (including UK spouse visa applications).
On the other hand, standard IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests will not satisfy the Immigration Rules for UK spouse visas.
With this being said, for reasons discussed below, we do not generally recommend taking the IELTS for UKVI (General Training) or IELTS for UKVI (Academic) tests for the UK spouse and partner visas.
What are the other ways to satisfy the English language requirement without having to take an IELTS test?
The following are the alternatives to sitting an IELTS English language test (or one of the other Home Office approved Secure English language tests in 2024).
Being a national of a majority English-speaking country
If the applicant is a national of one of the following majority English-speaking countries, they will automatically meet the English language requirement and will not have to sit an English language test:
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- the Bahamas;
- The British Overseas Territories;
- New Zealand;
- St Kitts and Nevis;
- St Lucia;
- St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Trinidad and Tobago; and
- the United States of America.
If the applicant is a national of one of the above countries, they will just need to submit their passport or travel document which confirms their nationality to meet the English language requirement.
If their travel document or passport is not available because it has been lost or stolen, is currently with another department of the Home Office, or has expired and has been returned to the relevant authorities, this should be highlighted and explained in the application.
In such a case, the applicant should be able to submit a letter from their national government, High Commission or Embassy to confirm their name, date of birth and nationality.
Alternatively, you will be able to provide a valid national identity document.
By having an academic qualification taught in English
The second alternative way you can satisfy the English requirement is if you have a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD qualification that was taught in English.
However, it is important to note that there additional documentary requirements if the degree was awarded from a university or higher education establishment outside the UK.
In light of this, you may find it easier to sit an IELTS Life Skills test or other Home Office approved Secure English language tests in 2024 if the qualification was awarded outside the UK.
If the applicant’s qualification was awarded outside the UK, the qualification must:
- Be an academic qualification;
- Have been taught in English;
- Be submitted alongside confirmation from Ecctis (formerly NARIC – UK National Academic Recognition Information Centre) as being the equivalent of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD qualification in the UK; and
- Be submitted alongside confirmation from Ecctis that the degree was taught or researched in English at or above the required CEFR level (in limited situations).
Regarding point 4 above, if the qualification was taken in one of the countries listed below, it will be assumed to have been taught in English at or above the required level:
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- the Bahamas;
- New Zealand;
- St Kitts and Nevis;
- St Lucia;
- St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Trinidad and Tobago;
- the UK; and
- the USA.
It is important to note that Canada is not on the list of countries. Therefore, a qualification which was awarded in Canada will not be assumed to have been taught in English at or above the required level.
Who is exempt from the English language requirement?
In some cases, the applicant will be exempt from the English language requirement and will therefore not need to take an English language test.
The applicant will be exempt from the English language requirement if:
- On the date of application, the applicant is over 65 years old. Please note that the date of application is the day you submit the online application by paying the Home Office application fee on the online application form.
- The applicant can prove that they have a physical or mental disability that prevents them from satisfying the English language requirement.
This exemption is quite straightforward. If an applicant is aged 65 or over at the date of application, they will automatically be exempt from having to meet the English language requirement.
The only evidence required for this exemption will be the applicant’s passport which shows their age.
Physical or mental disability
This exemption is not always straightforward as the applicant will have to prove that it would be unreasonable for them to either:
- Learn English to the required A1 or A2 level; or
- Take the English language test at the required A1 or A2 level due to a mental or physical condition.
If the Home Office accepts the supporting documentation that you provide, the applicant will be classed as exempt and will therefore not have to take the test.
Every application requesting an exemption will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“When would the Home Office permit an exemption?”
The Home Office may determine that an applicant is exempt if:
- A medical practitioner has diagnosed a long-term physical condition that prevents an applicant from learning English or taking the test; or
- A medical practitioner has diagnosed a mental condition that results in an applicant not being able to speak or learn English at the required level.
“When is it likely the Home Office will allow an exemption?”
It is likely the Home Office will decide an applicant is exempt if they are deaf, mute or have a speech impediment that makes it difficult to talk.
Which is the best IELTS test to choose for a UK spouse visa in 2024?
The commonly preferred Secure English language test is the IELTS Life Skills test.
This is because the A1, A2 and B1 IELTS Life Skills tests only assess speaking and listening.
Unlike other UK visa applications, applications for UK spouse visas, (as well as for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship) only require an assessment of your speaking and listening abilities.
If you find the IELTS Life Skills test to not be available, we would recommend booking one of the other secure English language tests discussed in the below sub-heading.
We only recommend IELTS for UKVI (Academic) and IELTS for UKVI (General Training) tests if:
- None of the other tests which only assess speaking and listening are available (discussed below); or
- Passing an IELTS for UKVI (Academic) or IELTS for UKVI (General Training) tests would be helpful for other reasons (e.g., for employment in the UK).
What other spouse visa English language tests only assess speaking and listening?
The following are the other secure speaking and listening English language tests that you can take which will only assess speaking and listening:
- Graded Examination in Spoken English by Trinity College (GESE) tests
- LanguageCert International ESOL SELT (Speaking & Listening) tests
- Skills for English UKVI tests
- Pearson PTE Home tests
What does the IELTS Life Skills test involve?
The IELTS Life Skills test involves a basic speaking and listening test which is carried out face-to-face with an examiner.
There will normally be one other candidate with you when you take the test.
The tasks are intended to see if you can communicate in English on typical, everyday topics.
This involves short discussions on things like:
- family and friends;
- personal details/experiences;
- buying goods;
- transport; and
The test assesses your ability to listen and respond, and whether you can make your meaning clear whilst speaking with others.
After the test, you will receive one of two results – pass or fail.
A pass will be required to show that the spouse visa UK English language requirement is met.
Can I make a complaint about the IELTS for UK spouse visa test?
Yes. The first step to making a complaint is to contact the test centre you took the test.
Complaints can include, for example, problems with the way the test was run on the day or inappropriate conduct by staff or an examiner.
If the test centre cannot resolve the complaint it will be referred to the IELTS Complaints Team who should give you an outcome within 20 working days.
Complaints should be made on a form available via the following link on the IELTS website.
Can I cancel and get a refund for the IELTS for UK spouse visa test?
It is possible to cancel your IELTS test at any time before taking your test by contacting your Test Centre.
Whether you can get a refund largely depends upon when you cancel as discussed on the IELTS webpage here.
How should you prepare for the IELTS for spouse visa test?
Before you take the test it is wise to familiarise yourself with the test’s format, including the kind of questions that you will be asked.
It is a good idea to practice with sample questions which are available on the IELTS website. IELTS also offers other resources to help you prepare.
IELTS provide some guidance as to how applicants can prepare here.
Numerous mock exams are also available on YouTube.
How do I register for the IELTS for UK spouse visa test?
#1 Find your nearest IELTS test location.
IELTS has more than 1,600 test locations in over 140 countries, which means it is likely there will be a suitable place for you to take the test.
You can find the nearest IELTS test centre closest to you by clicking here and then by clicking “IELTS for UKVI and IELTS Life Skills”.
#2 Register for the IELTS test.
There are two ways to register. You can either register and pay online or you can download an application form to print, complete and submit to your chosen test centre.
Please note you must provide a copy of a valid identity document, usually your passport. You will need to take the same document to confirm your identity at the test centre when you arrive to take the test.
#3 You will receive confirmation that your IELTS test is booked.
After the test application has been processed, your chosen test centre will send you written confirmation of the time and date of the test.
Please note: If you are planning to take the test in the US you should register via this link.
How long does it take to receive the IELTS for UKVI and IELTS Life Skills test results?
The length of time to receive a result depends on the test taken but remember you may also have to wait to take the test, depending on availability when you book.
If you take the IELTS Life Skills test, your results are available seven days after the date of the test.
If you take one of the IELTS for UK tests, you will be able to view your results 13 days after the date of your test.
You will normally be sent one copy of your Test Report Form. You can either arrange for the form to be posted to you by your test centre or the applicant can pick it up from the test centre.
Where can I find out more information about the IELTS tests for UK spouse visas?
More information about the IELTS tests is available on the ielts.org website
If you go on to the website, you will be able to download a free PDF IELTS Life Skills guide for test takers here.
What IELTS test level is required for UK spouse visas in 2024?
A1 is required if you are applying for your first partner visa.
Thomas, a British citizen, and Leah, a Brazilian national, got married in Brazil.
Leah now wants to apply for a UK spouse visa so that she can live with Thomas in the UK.
As it will be Leah’s first application for a spouse visa, she would need to pass at least an A1 level test.
A2 level is the minimum that is required for those applying for an FLR(M) visa after completing 30 months in the UK.
Thomas and Leah obtained their first 33-month UK spouse visa and are now ready to apply for Leah’s FLR(M) spouse visa extension application.
Lara will now need to pass an approved English language test at Level A2.
Please note: Fiancé(e)s (or proposed civil partners) who passed a Level A1 test when they obtained an initial six-month fiancé(e) (or proposed civil partnership) visa and who are now applying for an FLR(M) visa within the 6-month validity date of the visa can use the same A1 test.
Jess, a Nigerian national, passed a Level A1 test when she obtained a fiancée visa to marry Jacob, a British citizen.
Jess is now planning to apply for an FLR(M) visa to extend her stay in the UK beyond the initial 6 months allowed by her fiancée visa.
She can rely on the Level A1 test she took for the fiancée visa and does not need to take a new test.
Does the IELTS test for a spouse visa have an expiry date?
Generally, yes. An IELTS test for a UK spouse visa will expire after 2 years.
However, if you sit a higher level test (such as A2 or B1) when you apply for your first spouse visa you will normally be able to use the same test to meet the English language requirement in future applications.
But please note that IELTS Life Skills A2 tests can only be taken in the UK.
If you want to take the A2 test overseas you need to check availability with other Secure English Language Test providers.
Pearson’s PTE Home, for example, does offer the test from outside the UK.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Do we need to submit a test certificate with our application?
No. Strictly speaking, the Home Office now only needs you to provide the SELT unique reference number (URN) to confirm you have passed the test. However, to be helpful to the Home Office caseworker considering your application, you can still also submit a copy of the IELTS document you receive to confirm you have passed the test.
How much does the IELTS test cost in 2024?
On average, the IELTS Life Skills test costs £150. Please note that this may vary due to exchange rates. Please also note that the IELTS for UKVI (Academic) and (General Training) tests are likely going to cost more.
Can I resit the IELTS for UK spouse visa test if I fail?
Yes. If you failed the IELTS Life Skills test, you can sit another test whenever you feel comfortable doing so. Some extra practice is likely to be needed and the IELTS website provides some tips and sample questions to help you on your way.
How can we quickly find out which IELTS test level the applicant can pass?
There are many mock English language tests that can be found on Youtube. Watching these should give you an approximate idea of what level the applicant’s English speaking and listening language skills are at.
As a UK immigration law firm that specialises in UK spouse and partner visas, we are especially well-placed to help our clients with their applications.
Our full legal representation service, which is primarily offered by Ed Lowe, Wendy Foy & Matthew French (all of whom have worked in the Home Office for many years), involves us handling your application from start to finish.
On the other hand, if you are willing to take the time to prepare and submit the application yourselves, you may be interested in our £435 DIY Application Pack Service.