If you want to apply for a visa for New Zealand, you will have to demonstrate a certain standard of English language competency.
Different levels of English are required for different visa types.
The necessary standard of English capabilities is highest for principal applicants under the Skilled Migrant Category, because the goal of this policy is to attract skilled migrants with an excellent professional background that can be transferred to New Zealand.
It is realistic to say that anybody wanting to find employment and use their highly qualified skills, will need to be able to communicate in English on a very high level.
If you have to be registered with the professional board in charge for your profession, the required level of English might be even higher. This applies for teachers, nurses, doctors etc.
The required English levels depending on the kind of visa you are applying for
The Skilled Migrant Category
The minimum English requirement must be met by the Principal applicant, as well as the Principal applicant's partner and any dependent children aged 16 and older. Principal applicants must either show an IELTS report with an overall band score of 6.5 or better in the General or Academic modules, or provide evidence that they meet this requirement. Partners and dependent children over 16 must have a recent IELTS certificate with an overall band score of 5 or better in the General or Academic modules.
Principal applicants must either show an IELTS report with an overall band score of 4 or more, or provide evidence that they meet this requirement. Other evidence can be considered. Their partners and dependent children can either show that they have an IELTS score of 4 or have an English speaking background, or can pre-purchase English language (ESOL) tuition
Applicants under Investor Plus (Investor 1) category and their families do not have to meet any language requirements.
Principal applicants under Investor category (Investor 2 category) must have an English speaking background or an overall band score of three or more in their IELTS ( International English Language Testing System) test report. Their family members must either provide evidence of the same level or, alternatively, they can pre-purchase ESOL tuition.
Residence from Work Applicants
If you are a principal applicant under Talent (Accredited Employers, Arts, Culture and Sports) and Long Term Skill Shortage List instructions, you will not be required to meet any English language requirements when you apply for residence.
There a no specific English language requirements for work visa applicants. However, Immigration New Zealand expects a certain level of English to ensure that you can undertake your employment in New Zealand. The level required will depend on your employer's requirements and the job description. Your immigration officer will need to be satisfied that your level of English is sufficient to perform your duties correctly and will assess this during your visa application process.
Immigration NZ does not set any English language requirements for students. Some Education Providers (especially at tertiary level) require a certain level of English before offering you a place, but this will vary from one provider to the next and you will have to find this out individually.
There are different ways of showing that you and your family meet the minimum English language standard.
Provide an IELTS certificate
You may not have to take the IELTS test, if you can demonstrate that you:
- have a recognised qualification from a course taught entirely in English
- have ongoing skilled employment in New Zealand, and have been in the job for at least the last 12 months
- have other evidence that you are competent in English
In all cases Immigration New Zealand may still require an IELTS certificate.
What happens if you do not meet the minimum standard?
You must meet the minimum requirements in order to be approved for your visa. If your partner or child(ren) aged 16 years or older do not meet the requirements above, you can choose to pay for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) tuition in New Zealand.
This allows your partner and child(ren) to improve their English after they arrive in New Zealand. You purchase this tuition from New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Commission. Providing all other visa requirements are met, you will be granted a residence class visa once the tuition charge is paid. Your partner and child(ren) have five years in which to complete the ESOL tuition you have paid for.
How much will you have to pay for your family´s ESOL tuition?
Your partner’s and child(ren)’s IELTS score – across all four bands – determines the amount you have to pay for pre-purchased ESOL tuition.
If you are not able to supply an IELTS certificate, you have to pay the maximum charge. The charge to be paid includes an administration fee and an ESOL entitlement tuition fee. The ESOL entitlement is the amount of money you can use as tuition fees.
Overall IELTS score
Charge to be paid
|4.5 or more but less than 5||NZ$1,735||NZ$1,531.82|
|4 or more but less than 4.5||NZ$3,420||NZ$3,063.64|
|3.5 or more but less than 4||NZ$5,110||NZ$4,600.00|
|Less than 3.5||NZ$6,795||NZ$6,131.82|
Are you eligible for a resident visa under Skilled Migrant Category? Find out by using our Quick Self-Check Guide!
Read more about becoming a New Zealand resident through the Skilled Migrant Category:
- Will you be able to claim points for your qualifications?
- Will you be able to claim points for your professional expertise?
- Is your profession on one of the Skill Shortages Lists?
- Do you have to be registered in New Zealand?
- Will you meet the English language requirements?
Ask our Licensed Immigration Adviser
If you want to find out more about obtaining the right visa for New Zealand, contact Julia Cooke, Licensed Immigration Adviser at NZIC.Ask Julia for a Free Assessment