Student Visas and the Duolingo English Test (2024)

Student Visas and the Duolingo English Test (2024)
Photo by Jason Leung / Unsplash

Applying for a student visa can be challenging for many students, particularly when it's their first time applying. To make matters more complicated, visa guidelines are always changing.

Many student visas require that students show their proficiency in English if it is not their native language. To make this process easier, in this article, we will outline whether the Duolingo English Test can be used when applying for student visas in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and Ireland in 2023.

Table of Contents

Can I use the Duolingo English Test to apply for a student visa in the United States?

The USA is the top destination for young adults going abroad, with Chinese and Indian nationals being the most common international students. But, many students wonder, is Duolingo accepted in the USA for a study visa in 2023?

There are three types of student visas available in the United States:

  1. F1 Visa๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

The F1 Visa is used for both undergraduate and graduate studies in the United States and requires students to be studying for at least 18 hours a week.

  1. J1 Visa๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

The J1 Visa is for students, visiting scholars, and lecturers in an exchange program. It is usually for short-term study experiences sought by working professionals. Some J1 visas can be provided to full-time students funded by their home country.

  1. M1 Visa๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

The M1 Visa is for students at vocational or technical schools.

None of these visas require an English Proficiency Test or minimum scores, but they do require students to "show English language proficiency" unless they are enrolling in an English language program. In this sense, it's still a good idea to take one of the available tests to demonstrate to your United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer that you are able to read, write, and speak English. Thankfully, USCIS does not specify which test you need to take, so you can take the Duolingo English Test to prepare.

But, before you can apply for any of these student visas you must be accepted into a US institution certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Admissions to these schools themselves usually require a language proficiency test such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or the Duolingo English Test. The type of test required and minimum scores will vary by institution so be sure to check the admissions page for more details.

If you are taking the Duolingo English Test, ensure that your school is among the universities accepting the Duolingo English Test in 2023. Again, minimum Duolingo English Test scores vary by institution, but the average is between 110 and 130. Some competitive schools require higher Duolingo English Test scores and others don't have a minimum at all.

According to the official government website, interviews may require you to present "standardized test scores required by your U.S. school" so it is important that you meet the language proficiency requirements for the school you are admitted to and bring evidence of this to your visa interview. If you don't meet the minimum requirements for your school but were still accepted you may be able to provide proof that you will be enrolled in courses that will improve your language proficiency in some cases, or that you are attending a language-training program.

Good luck pursuing your American Dream! ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ—ฝ๐Ÿฆ…

Can I use the Duolingo English Test to apply for a student visa in Canada?

In Canada, students can apply for a "study permit" to study at designated learning institutions or DLIs. You may also need a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization to actually enter Canadian borders, which will be issued with the study permit. Students can also apply to study in Canada through the Student Direct Stream or SDS. Canada clearly loves its acronyms! ย 

If you apply directly to universities and are accepted into a Canadian educational institution that accepts the Duolingo English Test, you may be able to use the Duolingo English Test as proof of your English proficiency for the study permit. The rules here are the same as for US institutions in that whether the university accepts the Duolingo English Test and minimum scores for the Duolingo English Test varies from school to school. The most preferable scores for the Duolingo English Test at Canadian institutions usually range from 100-125. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ There is no minimum score for purchasing the best maple syrup in the world, though. ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ

Please note, however, that the Duolingo English Test is NOT accepted for the Student Direct Stream route. Indeed, the SDS in Canada does not accept ANY online English proficiency tests like the Duolingo English Test; only the IELTS and CELPIP are accepted as valid.

Can I use the Duolingo English Test to apply for a student visa in the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom is within the top three countries for international students with most students coming from China, India, and Nigeria. The UK consists of England๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ, Scotland๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ, Wales๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ท๓ ฌ๓ ณ๓ ฟ, and Northern Ireland (no emoji exists yet ๐Ÿ˜ž), but thankfully the student visa process is the same for all of these countries.

The student visa can be applied for six months before you start your course and does require that you "prove your knowledge of the English language" when you apply. In order to do this you must either pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) or have one of the following qualifications:

  • GCSE๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • A level๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • Scottish National Qualification Level 4๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • Scottish National Qualification Level 5๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

The qualifications above must have been attained from a UK school that you began when you were under 18 to be accepted.

๐Ÿฆ‰ Please note, you do not need to demonstrate your English proficiency if you are a national of Canada, you're applying to come to the UK as part of a USA study abroad program, or you proved your level of English in a previous visa application.

The SELT must be taken with one of the following providers:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium where you can take the IELTS for UKVI or IELTS Life Skills ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • LanguageCert where you can take the LanguageCert International ESOL SELT ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • Pearson where you can take 'Skills for English UKVI'๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • Trinity College London where you can take the Secure English Language Tests for UKVI โ€“ Integrated Skills in English [ISE] or Graded Examinations in Spoken English [GESE]๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd to take the Skills for English (UKVI)๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

& the test must have been taken two years before the date of your application.

While it can be disappointing to learn that the UK doesn't currently accept the Duolingo English Test for visa applications, the good news is that Duolingo is trying to change that! This is great considering that many students have to TRAVEL ABROAD(!) to take a currently approved test.

Further, 1,000+ UK universities do accept Duolingo English Test scores for admission into their program โ€“ which may be a relief to many international students who have already taken it. As with most countries, the minimum requirements and whether the Duolingo English Test is accepted varies by institution.

Don't forget to have some tea and biscuits when you get there!!! โ˜•

Can I use the Duolingo English Test to apply for a student visa in Ireland?

If you are planning to study for more than three months in Ireland (not to be confused with Northern Ireland) you can apply for a 'D' visa up to three months before your date of travel.

In order to gain the 'D' visa, you must show that you have "the capacity to do your chosen course in English". To apply for an English language course, you must have and prove a basic level of English.

To meet these requirements, the Irish government requests that you submit an English Language proficiency certificate with your visa application, one that has been issued within two years of the start of your studies.

๐Ÿฆ‰Please note - the process is different if you are doing a course taught in Irish.

The Duolingo English Test is accepted for language requirements in Ireland. A minimum score of 55 is required for "2nd level" and "foundation level" or preparatory English courses. 2nd level courses are in private, for-fee institutions where "foundation level" means a Level 5 course on the National Framework of Qualifications. ย A higher minimum score of 75 is required for all other courses.

Students may also use the following to demonstrate their English Language proficiency:

  • Cambridge English Language Assessments (CELA)
  • English Test for Academic and Professional Purposes (ETAPP)
  • International English Language Competency Assessment (IELCA)
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE)
  • Test of English as Foreign Language, internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) โ€“ the at-home edition and paper edition are also permitted
  • Oxford Test of English
  • Skills for English Four Facet Test
  • LanguageCert International ESOL or LanguageCert Academic
  • Trinity College London (Integrated Skills in English ISE I or II)

You can find a breakdown of minimum scores in these tests on the Irish immigration official website.

As with the other countries listed in this article, minimum English language proficiency and accepted proficiency tests are school-specific; more and more universities in Ireland are accepting candidates with their English proficiency determined by their Duolingo English Test scores.

Don't worry if you need to complete a preparatory English course before starting your degree to improve your proficiency. This can be done as long as the preparatory course doesn't exceed six months; you submit a study plan with your visa application; and fees for the preparatory course AND the main course are complete and evidenced in your application.

If your visit to Ireland is less than 90 days, you will need a "C" visa rather than a D visa. Students typically apply for this to take a short-term English language course. Students applying specifically to English Language courses in Ireland do not need to provide evidence of English proficiency as part of their visa application. However, the Visa Officer may ask you to provide alternative evidence of your English before coming to Ireland. As such, it can be a good idea to take a test regardless.

As always, the type of visa you need (if you need one at all) also depends on your nationality. ๐Ÿ€ May the luck of the Irish be with you! ๐Ÿ€

Can I use the Duolingo English Test to apply for a student visa in Australia?

Going down under? ๐Ÿจ๐Ÿฆ˜ How exciting! Before you pack your bags and start purchasing bug nets (๐Ÿ•ท๏ธ๐Ÿ˜จ๐Ÿ•ท๏ธ) make sure that you meet the English proficiency requirements for your student visa.

Once you've been admitted into the university of your choice you will need to submit a "confirmation of enrolment" to the Australian government to verify your studies. This confirmation of enrollment must be included in your student visa application. Many of these universities require proof of English proficiency for admission and vary in the tests and minimum scores they accept.

Interestingly, while you don't NEED to provide evidence of your English proficiency when you submit your visa application, at any time while the Australian government is processing your application they can ask you to provide evidence of your language skills. In this case, unless you fall into an exemption category, you must provide a test score in an English language test taken a maximum of two years before you apply. To avoid rush and panic, we advise you to book an English proficiency test as soon as possible after (or even before) submitting your visa application.

Accepted English Language Test Providers in Australia:

  • IELTS, including IELTS One Skill retake
  • TOEFL (on or before July 25, 2023 only)
  • Cambridge English Advanced
  • Pearson Test of English Academic
  • Occupational English Test

Exceptions include:

  • Citizens of the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, or the Republic of Ireland (this does not include those who have British National (Overseas) passports)
  • Individuals who have studied for at least five years in English in Australia, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, or the Republic of Ireland
  • Foreign Affairs or, Defence sponsored students or Secondary Exchange students (AASES)
  • Students who, in the 2 years before applying, completed either the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education or a substantial component of a course leading to a qualification from the Australian Qualifications Framework at the Certificate IV or higher level, while they held a student visa. Completion must have been in Australia and in the English language.
  • Students enrolled in a principal course of study that is a registered school course, a standalone English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS), a course registered to be delivered in a language other than English, or a registered post-graduate research course

Because the Australian government does not accept any "at-home" or "online" tests at this time, Duolingo English Test does not count for Australian migration purposes, unfortunately.

We know that students can find it difficult to apply for student visas. Many visas require LOTS of paperwork and funds. So, if you do decide to take the Duolingo English Test, make one aspect easier on yourself and join Arno by clicking the link below. We have unlimited, free practice questions with in-depth, instant feedback.

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Join Arno today! It's completely free!

Finally, as you go through the difficult process of getting admitted into an international university remember why you are doing it and your value as a student. International students gain so much from studying abroad professionally and personally, but they also bring so much to the campus' they are studying at. You've got this!!!