JCWI Voices UK Language Test Concerns

Published: 01/12/2010

Almost as soon as the new English language test came into force on 29th November there have been criticisms of the scheme.
The most vocal organisation is the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigration (JCWI), whose concerns regarding the fairness of the new test are gaining extensive publicity. The JCWI is calling for people to contact their local MPs in order to help publicise what it sees as a series of unfair and unequal requirements arising from the test.
In short, the new English language test is a compulsory element for the majority of non-EAA UK marriage, spouse or partner visa applicants who are applying to join their UK-resident loved ones. It is understood that the level of English required to pass the test demands the ability to speak a number of basic phrases. The only exceptions are for those applicants who come from an approved English speaking country (including Jamaica, the USA and Canada), have an English language taught UK NARIC-approved Bachelor’s Degree, are over 65 years of age or can prove a medical condition that negates their need to learn the language.
The JCWI has stated that while it understands that the ability to speak English is an important aspect of leading a ‘positive and empowering’ life in the UK, it sees a number of flaws that make the requirement ‘a bad idea’.
A spokesperson for the JCWI said, “The test is likely to be ineffective both in engendering integration and enhancing linguistic skills. Indeed, as the National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults have pointed out, England really is the best place to teach migrants English. In any event, it is of course already the case that these migrants are required to satisfy language and cultural tests some 24 months or so after arrival when they apply to settle in the UK.”
The JCWI’s reasons for the unfairness of the test are numerous. The cost of the test, expected to be in the region of £1000 for the required amount of teaching, is considered prohibitive, particularly as it comes in addition to the non-refundable cost of the application itself. However, this figure has been quoted by the JCWI as being for 90 hours of tuition, whereas UKBA expects most applicants to require only 45 hours in order to pass the test. The JCWI proposes that free tuition should be available, or heavily subsidised tuition at the very least, but it has not made clear how the cost of this would be achieved.
The fact that applicants who are unable to pass the test will potentially be separated from their families is also a concern of the JCWI. Under its ‘splitting and keeping families apart’ list of concerns, it states that ‘these tests will apply to couples who have been living abroad together for some time who may, in some cases, have children together’. It is keen to highlight that these families would be separated under this ruling, if the non-EEA partner is unable to pass the English language test.
Another concern from the JCWI states that the English language test is discriminatory. The organisation believes that people in non-English speaking zones of conduct, or countries where natural disasters have occurred, or those in developing countries would be unlikely to be able to pay for the tuition or indeed pass the test without the tuition.
Furthermore, the JCWI highlighted that it is certainly possible that some applicants may not be required to take the test if they come from a recognised English speaking country, such as Canada, yet they may actually not speak English themselves.
The JCWI is continuing its vocal criticism of the new English language test for applicants to the UKBA for UK marriage and UK family visas, and Marriage Visa Help will continue to update the news section of our website as the situation develops.

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