Minimum English requirements for New Zealand visas

Do I need an English test to apply for a New Zealand visa?

Depending on the visa you are applying for, you may be expected to meet a minimum standard of English. The level required largely is balanced between your purpose for coming into New Zealand and the duration of your stay.

Are there English requirements for all visas?

Applicants for temporary visas, and any partnership-based visas are not required to meet English Language requirements. There are some exceptions (see further down the section for Temporary visas).

English language requirements for family members

The acceptable level of English language is usually lower for partners and children than it is for the principal applicant (main visa holder/seeker). See below for more information.

How can I prove that I meet the requirements?

Depending on the visa category, you may prove your English skills via a recognised test such as IELTS ( International English Language Testing System), PTE (Pearson Test of English Academic), TOEFL IBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test), OET (Occupational English Test), or FCE (Cambridge English: First).

The IELTS test the most widely accepted evidence. Alternatively, you may be able to prove your level of English through schooling, study, tertiary qualification, or work in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America.

Who needs to meet the minimum standard?

Accredited Employer Work visa -  Applicants for an AEWV based on a role at ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 must provide evidence of English proficiency (IELTS General 4.0 or equivalent).

Skilled Migrant Category – the principal applicant and everyone aged 16 or over included in the application.

This popular category is meant to attract skilled professional into New Zealand. As such, the requirements are relatively high with an IELTS test overall band score result of 6.5 required for the principal applicant and 5 for their partner and children aged 16 and over. Other English tests are also acceptable and your personal Adviser can make recommendations. If your partner and/or children do not meet the requirements, you may be able to pre-purchase ESOL tuition (see further down).

Business categories – the principal applicant and everyone aged 16 or over included in the application under the Active Investor Plus category. Principal applicants under the Entrepreneur Residence must show an IELTS of 4.

Residence from Work Category – principal applicants under the Religious Worker instructions must meet the minimum standard of English.
All other principal applicants under Residence from Work categories (Talents – Accredited Employer / Arts, Culture and Sport or Long Term Skill Shortage) do not need to meet the minimum standard.
Partners and any children aged 16 and over included in any Residence from Work application must meet a minimum standard of English via an IELTS 5.0 or via their background or employment in New Zealand for at least a year.

Pre-purchase English classes (ESOL tuition)

Instead of meeting the minimum standard of English, partners and children aged 16 and over can pre-purchase English tuition: ESOL. The charge is payable to Immigration New Zealand –who collects on behalf of the Tertiary Education Commission– before the resident visa is granted. The charge is determined by their IELTS overall band score, and indexed accordingly, starting at NZ$1,735 (for IELTS overall score 4.5) and up to $6,795 (for IELTS overall score under 3.5).

What about temporary visas?

While there are no minimum English requirements fortemporary work visas (except for low-skilled roles under AEWV), it is expected that you will be able to work effectively in an English speaking environment. You immigration case officer must be satisfied that you show sufficient English proficiency to undertake employment, depending on your job offer.

Likewise, there are no English requirements to lodge a student visa application. However, your tertiary provider will ask for an IELTS test to confirm your enrolment, unless you are coming to study English.