Changes to Knowledge of Life Requirement for UK Settlement Applications

Published: 21/03/2009

The Knowledge of Life test for those visa applicants of all categories, including UK marriage visas and partner visa applications, has just got a little bit stricter.

While the test itself is, in many ways, a continuous work of changes and amendments in response to the changing face of life in the UK, an announcement made on 19th March 2009 has highlighted the necessity for UK visa applicants of all categories to pass the Knowledge of Life test before settlement can be granted.

This is a core change to the current visa application process because, prior to this announcement which came into affect on 31st March 2009, some UK settlement visa applications that met all the relevant requirements except the Knowledge of Life test were able to be automatically considered for limited leave to remain to be granted in the same category, with the difference in monetary fees being refunded.

However, since 31st March 2009, this consideration is no longer possible, with all applicants needing to pass the Knowledge of Life test, with no refund of fees for those that do not qualify. There is some slight flexibility in that UK visa applicants that do not meet the Knowledge of Life requirements when their existing leave comes to an end may be able to extend their stay, although the administrative aspect of this is now tighter. As such, these visa applicants must make sure they use the relevant form and specifically apply for limited leave to remain, as opposed to the previous need to submit a settlement application.

The Knowledge of Life test is also known as the ‘knowledge of language and life in the United Kingdom’ and is a spoken and written test that is designed to show how comfortable potential UK residents are with ‘all things British’. The test covers such topics as key dates in the UK calendar and important dates in history, cultural references and language-based questions. There is plenty of guidance available to help visa applicants have a better chance of passing the test, with information on the UK Government website as well as a number of on-line publications. There are two types of test, one for those that speak English to a reasonable standard and one for ‘Speakers of Another Language’, although there are still basic language requirements.

There are some categories of visa and settlement applications that are exempt from the Knowledge of Life test – Foreign and Commonwealth citizens on discharge from HM Forces and their spouses, including Ghurkhas, those applying as victims of domestic abuse, the parent or guardian of those applying under Para 317 of the immigration rules or those applying as a bereaved spouse/unmarried partner/civil partner. Even the above categories are required to pass the test if subsequently applying for British Citizenship, unless exempt for other reasons. If disability prevents the applicant from learning English, there are additional exemptions, although the requirements do still need to be met to some extent.

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