English-speaking background

For visas other than skilled residence visas, you may be able to use your English-speaking background to meet our English language requirements.

Using your background to meet our English language requirements

Your English-speaking background can be shown by your:

  • education and qualifications
  • use of English in your work, family and everyday life.

If you are applying for a skilled residence visa, you cannot use English-speaking background as evidence of your English language ability.

Your visa requirements state how you can meet our English language criteria.

English-speaking background from education and qualifications

When you apply for a visa, proof of your English-speaking background can include:

  • certificates showing you were taught in English for all the years you were at primary school and for at least 3 years of secondary school
  • certificates showing you were taught in English for 5 years at secondary school
  • a tertiary qualification that was taught in English, which took 3 or more years to complete
  • certificates showing you have a qualification listed in the table below.
Table: Minimum results needed for English language qualifications
Qualification Minimum score or level required
General Certificate of Education (GCE) ‘A’ levels from Britain or Singapore C pass. Subjects must include English Language or Literature or Use of English
International Baccalaureate Full diploma in English medium
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English C pass
Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations (HKALE) C pass in Use of English
STPM 920 (Malaysia) A or B pass in English Literature
University of Cambridge in collaboration with University of Malaya, General Certificate of English (GCE) ‘A’ levels C pass, including English or General Paper subjects.
South African Matriculation Certificate Minimum D pass in English (higher grade
South African Senior Certificate Minimum D pass in English (higher grade), endorsed with the words 'matriculation exempt’
New Zealand tertiary entrance qualification Gained on completing year 13 (seventh form)

English-speaking background from work, family and everyday life

You can show us you are a competent user of English because of where you live, your family life, work background and studies. Evidence you meet our minimum standard of English can include:

  • the country or countries you live in or used to live in, and how long you were there for
  • whether you or your family speak English or any languages other than English
  • whether English language was needed in your current and past work, and at what level
  • getting qualifications that needed skill in English language.

If your background is insufficient evidence

English language tests

We may ask you to provide us with an English language test result if we need further evidence that you meet the minimum standard.

English language test results we accept

English language lessons

For your partner and dependent children

You can buy English language lessons for your partner and dependent children aged 16 and older, as part of your visa application.

You choose the lesson option when you apply. Then if your application is successful, we would approve it in principle. When you then pay for the lessons, we can fully approve your application and grant your visa. This lets your partner and dependent children improve their English after they come to New Zealand.

If your partner and dependent children sit an English language test, but do not get a high enough score, they may get a discount on the cost of the lessons.

Learning English after you come to New Zealand

For principal applicants applying for a Parent Resident Visa

If you (as the principal applicant) are applying for a Parent Resident Visa, you also have the option to buy English lessons as a way to meet our English language requirements.

Principal applicants for other visas cannot use the English lesson option as a way to meet our English language requirements.

Other visas and their English language ability requirements

Your visa requirements state whether or not you need to meet any minimum requirements for English. Some visas have no requirements around English language.

The level of English language ability is higher for skilled residence visas and cannot be met from just having an English-speaking background.

English language requirements for skilled residence visas