Irish veterinarian fails English speaking test for visa

Frederick Owens
August 10, 2017

A Wicklow woman who has been living in Australia for two years failed a residency test over her Irish accent.

Dr Louise Kennedy, a pregnant mother married to an Australian, has been working on the Sunshine Coast as an equine veterinarian for two years. Her reading and writing skills exceeded the requirements and she believes the technology is at fault.

Kennedy and her husband, Adam, are expecting a baby in 12 weeks, prompting Kennedy to apply for permanent residency in the country.

She is now seeking a...

The immigration department said on Thursday migration regulations do not require Irish nationals to sit an English language test to meet the requirements for that specific visa.

Dr Kennedy took the computer-based Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), which was approved by the Australian Government's Department of Immigration and Border Protection in 2014, and uses voice recognition technology.

However, she was told she had scored 74 points - below the 79 points required for a residency visa.

The vet called the oral test - which involved the reading of an on-screen paragraph - "very, very easy".

She has now been given an opportunity to redo the A$300 (€200) test free of charge.

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"I just thought [it was a mistake] and I'll just ring them up and they'll just listen to it again", she said.

Despite this, Dr Kennedy says she did not gain enough points in the English oral test to obtain her visa.

"That's based on the fact that there was construction work outside of the test centre at the time which could be a possible interference".

"There's obviously a flaw in their computer software when a person with ideal oral fluency can not get enough points", she said while speaking to the Guardian.

Because her husband is Australian Louise can apply for a more expensive spousal visa.

She says PTE Academic told her she could re-sit the English test for free in five weeks, but anxious her current visa would expire by the time the application was processed so she went ahead with the spousal visa application instead.

Pearson, the company running the test, told Australian Associated Press that there was nothing wrong with their systems or the scoring of test scores.

Sasha Hampson, head of English for Pearson Asia Pacific, says Australia sets a high bar for people seeking permanent visas.

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