Alternative English Language tests for visa applicants

From November 2014, the department will accept English language test scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) across visa programmes.  These tests are alternatives to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Occupational English Test (OET), and have been accepted in the Student visa programme since November 2011.

The Department of Immigration has announced that the TOEFL and Pearson tests of English language ability will be accepted for immigration purposes from November 2014.

Currently, only the International English Language Testing System IELTS and Occupational English Test (OET) are accepted for the purposes of applying for General Skilled Migration and Permanent Employer Sponsored ENS/RSMS visas.

From November 2014, the following tests will also be accepted:


The TOEFL iBT is taken via the internet. There are more than 50 test dates each year, and there is a wide range of test locations throughout the world.

The test takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete has the following structure:

  1. Reading: 60-80 Minutes
  2. Listening: 120-180 Minutes
  3. Speaking: 20 Minutes
  4. Writing: 50 Minutes

TOEFL scores are available approximately 10 days after the test date. They can be viewed online, and a hard copy is sent approximately 13 days after the test date. You can specify recipients for your scores to be sent to via an online facility, but this cannot be changed after you have taken the test.

The current cost to undertake the TOEFL iBT in Australia is $240, well under the current cost of IELTS ($330).

PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English Academic is structured as follows:

  1. Speaking and writing: 77 – 93 minutes
  2. Reading: 32 – 41 minutes
  3. Listening: 45 – 57 minutes

Overall, the test takes 3 hours. Results are available within 5 working days, and can be accessed by logging into an online account. It is possible to forward results to institutions via the online account also. This compares favourably with IELTS – results currently take 2 weeks to become available, and there is no online account facility for test takers.

The cost to do the PTE Academic test in Australia is $330 – exactly the same as IELTS. Locations and test dates are less extensive than the TOEFL.

Which Visas Will Be Affected?

The new English tests will apply for the following types of visa:

At this point, the new English tests have not been announced as applying to the subclass 457 visa. This subclass is currently under review and a report is due in July 2014, and it is likely that one of the recommendations would be to accept a wider range of English tests.

English Levels

Various Levels of English are Relevant for visa purposes:

1. Functional English

This is the level required for applicants for permanent and provisional skilled visas who wish to avoid paying the English Language Charge (currently $4,500 or more).

Required Scores to establish Functional English are as follows:

Test component Average across test components only
PTE Academic 30
OET n/a

2. Vocational English

Vocational English is the required level to obtain a 457 visa, and also ENS and RSMS visa through the Temporary Residence Transitional stream for people who have held a 457 visa for 2 years with the employer.

Required scores to establish Vocational English are as follows:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 5 5 5 5
TOEFL iBT 4 4 14 14
PTE Academic 36 36 36 36

3. Competent English

Competent English is the minimum (threshold) score for people applying for General Skilled Migration. It is also the score required for people applying for ENS and RSMS visas through the Direct Entry Stream.

Scores required to show Competent English are as follows:


Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 6 6 6 6
TOEFL iBT 12 13 21 18
PTE Academic 50 50 50 50

4. Proficient English

Proficient English applies only to Points Tested General Skilled visas, and is the required score to obtain 10 points for English.

Scores required for Proficient English are:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 7 7 7 7
TOEFL iBT 24 24 27 23
PTE Academic 65 65 65 65

5. Superior English

Superior English is to obtain the maximum score of 20 in the Skilled Migration Points Test.

Minimum scores for Superior English are:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 8 8 8 8
TOEFL iBT 28 29 30 26
PTE Academic 79 79 79 79


The availability of more choices for English language testing from November 2014 will be good for visa applicants. There will be various advantages for the different English tests, for instance:

  • TOEFL: readily available, inexpensive
  • Pearson: results ready in 5 days, ability to forward results to various recipients after test date
  • OET: no requirement to sit all 4 modules on the same date, results from different dates accepted by Immigration

Possibility of Cook in SOL …

Skill Shortages – Statistical Summary
The following is a summary of the quantifiable results of the Department of Employment’s skill shortage research. These provide a basis for comparison across locations and occupations and gives an historical  perspective to the 2013 results. It is important, though, to also understand the qualitative information gathered from the research. This is provided in Skill Shortages Australia



Annual Update of Skilled Occupation List – 1 July 2013

Occupations removed from the SOL

ANZSCO Code Occupation
251511 Hospital Pharmacist
251513 Retail Pharmacist
323111 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Avionics)
323112 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Mechanical)
323113 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Structures)

Regional Classification for Perth

On 19 July 2011 the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship announced the inclusion of Perth in the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS). The minister also agreed to include Perth as a regional area for family sponsored applications through the regional General Skilled Migration (GSM) programs.

Regional Migration Agreements

As part of Budget 2011–12, the Government has announced the introduction of Regional Migration Agreements (RMAs). These agreements are a new migration initiative that will bring together employers, local and state government and unions to cooperate on addressing local labour needs.

RMAs will be a coordinated response to regional labour needs, helping local areas to implement workforce strategies that support growth while ensuring Australian workers remain the first choice for employers and industry.

RMAs will be custom-designed, geographically based migration arrangements that set out the occupations and numbers of overseas workers needed in the area. Concessional access to semi-skilled overseas workers will be negotiated where there is a demonstrable and critical need.

Each RMA will be negotiated between the Government and representatives of the local area. Individual local employers will then directly sponsor workers under the terms of the RMA.

The agreements will allow employers to use overseas workers where local labour cannot be sourced. By utilising RMAs, regional employers will be able to gain streamlined access to temporary and permanent overseas workers if they can demonstrate a genuine need.

A strong focus of RMAs will be fostering training initiatives for Australians. Communities will be expected to demonstrate innovative strategies to train local workers to meet future skill needs. Individual employers who sponsor overseas workers under an RMA-associated labour agreement will be required to demonstrate investment in the training of local workers.

Free Seminars for Skilled Migrants in Victoria

Skilled migrants who have recently arrived in Australia can get expert advice on finding work in selected occupations at free seminars in Victoria.

The seminars will be held in Melbourne and regional Victoria, and will feature a panel of experts to answer questions and cover topics including:

* an overview of the labour market in Victoria for each occupation
* how to prepare for work in Australia
* how to write a resume for an Australian employer
* where workers for each occupation are needed most in Victoria.

Migrants who attend will also have the opportunity to network with a range of industry professionals, recruiters and other industry experts.

Please note that these seminars are for skilled migrant visa holders only. Other interested parties are advised to email for further information.

Western Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List

Western Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List
Skilled Sponsored Visa (SSV) – Subclass 176 (Offshore) and 886 (Onshore)
Skilled Regional Sponsored (Provisional) Visa (SRSV) – Subclass 475 (Offshore) and 487 (Onshore)

Applicants who have a skill listed on the Western Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List (WASMOL) may be eligible to apply for Western Australian State Sponsorship.
These occupations do not relate to any specific job vacancies, nor represent any guarantee of a job in these occupations, but rather identify skills that are in demand for industry sectors in Western Australia.
State Sponsorship applicants will have to compete with all potential employees in the Western Australian labour market in a normal competitive selection process to secure any available or advertised job.

Skilled migration to Queensland, Australia

Queensland State Migration Plan

Applications for Queensland Government state sponsorship are now open under the Queensland State Migration Plan (SMP).

The SMP is the result of a formal agreement between the Queensland Government and the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

Skilled migration program

Queensland offers a high standard of living and good working conditions. Queensland workers have rights to fair working conditions, including:

* a discrimination-free workplace
* safe working conditions
* good wages
* public and annual holiday leave entitlements.

The aim of the Queensland Government Skilled Migration Program is to strengthen the economy of Queensland by attracting people with skills in critical shortage.

Please note that the Queensland Government will decide if nomination is in the best interests of Queensland, based on Queensland’s labour market, economic and community needs at the time of assessment. Correctly lodging an application does not guarantee nomination.

Please also read the processing timeframes information.

Skilled visas

The eligible skills lists are reviewed regularly and updated to reflect current labour market conditions. The current lists were updated on 7 December 2010.

The Queensland Government participates in the:

* Skilled Sponsored (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 176)
* Skilled Regional Sponsored (Provisional) Visa (Subclasses 475 and 487)
* Skilled Sponsored (Residence) Visa (Subclass 886)

The skilled visa comparison table provides a brief overview of these visas.

The Queensland Government provides nominations to those skilled migrants who have an eligible skill and who are assessed as likely to provide a clear benefit to the Queensland economy. DIAC’s eligibility is also a condition of Queensland nomination for a Skilled Sponsored, Skilled Regional Sponsored visa or other sponsored visas.

The Australian Government also offers other types of migrant work visas. Visit the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) website to gain a general overview of the processes involved in migration to Australia.
Please be aware that applications, processing and visa approvals are wholly administered by DIAC. Please do not make any travel arrangements or changes to your personal situation until DIAC has formally advised the outcome of your application.

Last updated 4 January 2011