English testing requirements change for Subclass 457 visa applicants

21 Apr 15



What is the change? Australia has changed its English-language testing requirements for primary Subclass 457 visa applicants, altering the required minimum scores and permitting more providers to administer tests. Changes have also been made to the English-language requirements for the Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) and Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa programmes.

What does the change mean? The changes represent a more flexible approach in dealing with English-language requirements, a change that will be welcomed by employers and visa applicants for these subclasses.

  • Implementation time frame: 18 April 2015.
  • Visas/permits affected: Temporary Work (Skilled) visas (Subclass 457); Recognised Graduate visas (Subclass 476); and Temporary Graduate visas (Subclass 485).
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign nationals applying in any of the above subclasses.
  • Impact on Processing Times: The expansion of the number of test providers may reduce queues for English-language tests and the time required for applicants to complete relevant test requirements.

Business impact: The changes should have a positive impact on business, as high-skilled foreign nationals will have more options for satisfying English-language requirements before beginning work in Australia.

Background: The changes are part of Australia’s efforts to overhaul the Subclass 457 visa programme.

As of 18 April, an average score of 5 across the four competencies of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – listening, reading, speaking and writing – will count as passing. Under old rules, a score of at least 5 in each category was required. A minimum score of 4.5 in each of the categories will still be mandated.

Besides the IELTS test, authorities will also accept the Occupational English Test (OET), the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT), the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE) and the Cambridge English: Advanced test (CAE) (for tests undertaken after 1 January 2015). Passing scores are as follows:

Test Minimum Band Score Minimum score for individual components
Listening Reading Speaking Writing
IELTS Overall band score 5.0 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
TOEFL iBT Total band score 36 3 3 12 12
PTE Overall band score 36 30 30 30 30
CAE Overall band score 154 147 147 147 147

Source: Australian Government.

The Australian Government will exempt Subclass 457 applicants who can prove they have five cumulative years of full-time study at the secondary or tertiary level where instruction was delivered in English, whereas previously applicants had to demonstrate five consecutive years of full-time study. Those who will earn a base salary of A$96,400 per year will also be exempted from formal English-language testing.

Other changes that became effective 18 April 2015 touched on the Recognised Graduate visa (Subclass 476) and Temporary Graduate visa (Subclass 485) programmes. In these two subclasses, an average IELTS score of 6 (or the equivalent on another acceptable test) across all four competencies will count as passing, so long as the applicant does not score lower than IELTS 5 (or the equivalent on another acceptable test) on any individual competency. Previously, applicants had to score at least an IELTS 6 in each category.

BAL Analysis: The new testing requirements will provide greater flexibility for those migrating to Australia on Subclass 457 and other visas. The changes to the testing programme – along with the broader Subclass 457 overhaul – are welcome news to Australian employers.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact australia@bal.com.

MARN: 9683856

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