Would-be emigres to Australia have many hurdles to clear before they obtain a visa, but it’s the English Language Test that catches most by surprise and often trips them up.
“It is a stumbling block – People often say, ‘but I speak English, my home language is English, I was taught English,’ or, ‘I have a British passport; surely I don’t have to do the English language test?’ , but unfortunately, the English language test has been built into the system because it’s a point scoring mechanism, and you need to pass the test to score enough points to qualify for a visa,” said Australian emigration expert Sam Hopwood from Sable International.
In essence, to gain some Australian visas, applicants need to demonstrate their English abilities to the Department of Home Affairs. The international English Language testing System (IELTS) is one of the world’s most popular high stakes English language tests with over 3 million tests taken in the past year.
It measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work in a place where English is the language of communication. The test is used by educational institutions, professional associations and employers in Australia.
The test uses a nine-point scale to identify levels of proficiency. The points-based system has been structured so that only those with the most points will qualify and the bar for acceptance is set high.
“There are so many people applying for visas at the moment, the test is designed to skim off the cream of the applicants. A couple of years ago, as an accountant you would qualify on 60 points, but now as an accountant you will only qualify on 80 points or more.
“The English language test component has become the determining factor for a lot of people as to whether or not they are going to qualify for a general skilled migration visa and it favours more academic applicants,” said Hopwood.
“We’ve seen in the ‘general skilled migration category’ that the government is issuing less visas, the quota of visas available has come down and the demand of the amount of people applying is going up.”
Hopwood said preparing for the test is critical for the success of the overall application, there are a range of online resources that applicants can use to prepare specifically for the test.
“Those who don’t use writing skills on a daily basis struggle with the tests more than others. Our trade/artisan cliental probably struggle more with the tests than a person who works in an office and is writing emails every day.
“An accountant usually does well on the test, they’re the type of person who has been through an academically structured qualification and has built those skills within their own skillset.”
Hopwood said that applicants need to take the test seriously, brush up on their grammar skills and prepare well.
“Sable International has had clients who took the test lightly and thought they’d pass first time round and didn’t – many clients will take the tests at least twice. Most people will improve quite a bit on the second test. I do find that sometimes it’s the structure of the test that throws people off the first time.
There are five different types of test available – people should shop around for the test that suits their circumstances the best.
“Ironically, most newcomers will be hard-pressed to understand the Aussie slang, but they have to know how to speak the Queen’s English first.”
Australian visa options include:
- Sponsored visa: Your employer can sponsor you to live and work in Australia
- Skilled visa: If your occupation is listed on the Skilled Occupation List, you might qualify to live and work in Australia
- Parent visas: Bring your parents to live with you in Australia
- Partner visas: If you are in a relationship with an Australian citizen, a permanent resident of Australia or an eligible New Zealand citizen, you might qualify
- Working holiday visa: If you’re looking for an adventure, this visa will let you live and work in Australia for 12 months