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186EnglishENS Visas

What are the English requirements for an ENS (Subclass 186) visa?

By December 15, 2020January 5th, 202225 Comments

The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) program consists of employer sponsored visas for skilled foreign workers in high demand occupations. The Subclass 186 visa is a permanent resident visa and eligibility depends on a number of factors including the occupation, age, or salary of the candidate. For further information about the ENS program generally, you can refer to our dedicated page here.

This post sets out the English requirements for this visa, which depend on the relevant stream.

What are the English requirements for the Labour Agreement stream?

Clause 186.243(2) requires a 186 Labour Agreement stream applicant to have the English language skills that are suitable to perform the occupation to which the position relates. This means that the level of English will be accepted that was approved under the Labour Agreement.

What are the English requirements for the Direct Entry / Temporary Residence Transition streams?

Primary applicants

Firstly, English requirements for the primary applicants (the employee) are set out in Schedule 2 as “time of application” criteria. This means that evidence of English must be provided prior to lodging the application or be refused.

These primary applicants must demonstrate “competent English” or be a person in a class of persons specified by the Minister in a legislative instrument. However, there are no circumstances currently specified for this purpose in relation to ENS applicants – i.e. there are no English language exemptions for ENS applicants.

All applicants (including secondary applicants) who are 18 or over

All applicants who are over the age of 18 are assessed by Schedule 1 and this means that they do not need to demonstrate “functional English” at application but need to demonstrate “functional English” before a decision is made or pay the second instalment of the visa application charge.

Given that primary applicants usually satisfy “competent English” they also satisfy “functional English”.

For secondary applicants who are unable to demonstrate functional English, the current second instalment of the visa application charge is a significant $4,890.

What is competent English?

A person has competent English if:

  1. they have undertaken a language test specified by the Minister in a legislative instrument within the three years immediately before the ENS application was lodged, and achieved the score specified in the legislative instrument; or
  2. they hold a passport of a type specified by the Minister in the legislative instrument.

As such, a person can demonstrate competent English with one of the following:

Method
Evidence / Score

Passport and citizenship

A copy of the passport biodata page from the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland, to a citizen of that country

International English Language Test System (IELTS) test

An IELTS test score of at least 6 in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening

Occupational English Test (OET)

An OET test score of at least B in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening

Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)

A TOEFL iBT test score with at least the following scores in the four test components: 18 for speaking, 13 for reading, 21 for writing and 12 for listening

Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)

A PTE Academic test score of at least 50 in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening

What is functional English?

A person can demonstrate functional English with any of the following:

Method
Evidence / Score

Passport and citizenship

The applicant must provide evidence that they are the holder of a valid passport issued by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, or the Republic of Ireland, and are a citizen of that country

Primary and Secondary Education

The applicant must provide evidence of having completed all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education at educational institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English

Secondary Education

The applicant must provide evidence of having completed at least 5 years of secondary education at institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English

Post-Secondary Education

The person holds an award (being a degree, a higher degree, a diploma or a trade qualification) that required at least 2 years of full-time study or training and all instruction (including instruction received in other courses for which the person was allowed credit) for that award was conducted in English

Australian study

The applicant must provide evidence that they have successfully completed, in Australia, at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma, at an institution or institutions where all the instruction was conducted in English

IELTS

The applicant must provide evidence of having achieved IELTS average band score of at least 4.5, based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing, and listening in a test conducted:

  1. not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or
  2. at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate

TOEFL iBT

The applicant must provide evidence of having achieved a TOEFL iBT total band score of at least 32, based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing, and listening in a test conducted:

  1. not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or
  2. at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate

PTE Academic

The applicant must provide evidence of having achieved a PTE Academic overall band score of at least 30, based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing, and listening in a test conducted:

  1. not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or
  2. at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)

The applicant provides evidence of having achieved a CAE overall score of at least 147 based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing, and listening in a test conducted:

  1. not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or
  2. at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate

Approved English Courses

Evidence that the person has been assessed as having functional English by the provider of a course that is an approved English course for the purposes of section 4 of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971

Need further information?

With extensive experience representing the world’s largest corporations, SMEs, and start-ups, our staff are well placed to assist with all issues in relation to the employer sponsored visa process, including business sponsorship applications, nomination applications, compliance and sponsorship bars.

If you are an employer seeking more clarification about the English requirements for the ENS visa, we would love to put your mind at ease. Contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484 to obtain further guidance.

THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. PLEASE CONSULT AN IMMIGRATION PROFESSIONAL FOR UP TO DATE INFORMATION.
Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the firms immigration work flow.

More posts by Mihan Hannan

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Andi says:

    Hello,
    I am helping a friend. He is currently on visa 457 and on his 3rd year in the company he wants to apply for visa 186 The Temporary Residence Transition Stream. The problem is, he isnt confident at all with his english skills nor he wants to take the english tests. However, he finished 4 years of high school in the Philippines where all subjects are conducted in english. May i ask if that is enough for the english requirement? Thank you so much.

  • Joseph Pichay says:

    Hi Mate,

    Just want to clarify something in regards with 186 Visa under Labour Agreement.
    Is english required to take and what scores to be eligible.
    Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Hi Joseph,
      Thanks for reaching out.
      Clause 186.243(2) requires the 186 labour agreement stream applicant to have the English language skills that are suitable to perform the occupation to which the position relates. This means that the level of English will be accepted that was approved under the Labour Agreement itself (it’s not a common amount for all visas).
      Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you’d like us to review the relevant agreement.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

  • menaka vidanapathirana says:

    I’m a chef with a fully qualified(skill assessment ) currently hold 457visa working Melbourne, I couldn’t reach 6.0 each, I got each 5.5 and overall 6.0)I have been getting another job NT with sponsorship, can I able to apply for ENS (DAMA) with a labour agreement.

  • Francois Sieberhagen says:

    Good day,

    I would like to confirm if ONLY the main applicant applying for a employer sponsored 186 visa needs to demonstrate English Language ability (e.g. IELTS) or if my wife that will be a dependent on the visa application also requires to do the IELTS exam?

    Do you know where in the aus.gov website I can find this information? Do you have a link to this information on the aus.gov website?

    Thank you,
    Francois

    • admin says:

      Hi Francois,
      The secondary applicant will need to demonstrate “functional English” or pay the additional visa application charge of ~$4,000, whilst you need to demonstrate “competent English”.
      The Department’s website doesn’t clearly state the requirements, but you can always look to to Schedule 1 of the Migration Regulations here.
      Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you’d like our assistance with your application.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

      • Rene says:

        Hi Hannan,

        Sorry to jump on your question, Francois but my question is related. I am the secondary applicant for the employer sponsored 186 visa and have completed the IELTS Academic test with a superior level of English. Would I still be able to use this test if it was completed more than a year ago but still within the 3 years time? Or does the 3 years only apply to the main applicant?

        Thank you.
        Rene

        • admin says:

          Hi Rene,
          The secondary applicant requires “functional English”. This is a different definition and requires the test to be not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate.
          Kind regards,
          Hannan Tew

  • Kelvin says:

    Hi there,

    I am on my 457 Visa (Granted after April 2018) and going to apply 186 TRT visa.

    I took IELTS test (got all 6 and above) when I apply for my 457 Visa. Do I need to take another english test again when I apply for 186 TRT Visa?

    Thanks
    Kelvin

    • admin says:

      Hi Kelvin,
      Looks like your English tests meet the requirements for “competent” so you simply need to ensure that the test was take no more than 3 years before you lodge your 186 TRT visa. Once the 3 years has lapsed, you need to undertake a new English test.
      Good luck,
      Hannan Tew

  • Juby says:

    Hi,I am a registered nurse and I have ahpra registration and my anmac assessment has finished. For ielts what is the required score I need to apply for 186 permanent visa.do I need to Club my ielts score?
    Thanks

  • Longakit Ghertmar says:

    Sir Good Day

    I would like to ask if is still exempted for IELTS or Am I eligible if I finish 4years in Highschool and I had 2yrs in college?
    Thank you so much

    • admin says:

      Hi Longakit,
      That depends – are you the primary applicant or the secondary applicant? There are different requirements based on that (feel free to review the article).
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

  • Priyanthi says:

    hi,
    could you please clarify whether its academic or general IELTS is required for 186 visa? thanks

  • RAYMOND H says:

    Hi,
    I would like to check if Australia immigration office accept combining OET results from two sittings for Visa 186 Direct Entry Stream?
    Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Hi Raymond,
      You can actually sit the test as many times as you’d like as long as you get an outcome that meets the minimum scores.
      Good luck!
      Hannan Tew

      • RAYMOND H says:

        Hi Hanna,
        Thank you for the reply.
        What I meant was combining two OET test results such as
        First OET result: Reading B, Listening B, Writing C+ and Speaking B
        Second OET result: Reading B, Listening B, Writing B and Speaking C+

  • Sakthivel Gurusamy says:

    Hi Hanna,

    My Skills Assessment is in one job occupation (ANZSCO Code 263111 Computer Network and Systems Engineer) , while my current visa is being carried out in another occupation ( ANZSCO Code 263312 – Telecommunications Network Engineer). Is it ok to go to ENS (Subclass 186 visa ) Direct Entry stream as per my Skills Assessment “Computer Network and Systems Engineer”.

    Kind regards
    Sakthivel

    • admin says:

      Hi Sakthivel,
      Yes, you can use the skills assessment to apply for DE to a different occupation than which you are currently working.
      Just make sure you don’t use your Telecommunications Network Engineer experience towards the 3 years of relent experience requires for your Computer Network and Systems Engineer DE application.
      Good luck,
      Hannan Tew

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