New A2 English language requirement for partners and spouses in the UK

Published: 21/11/2016

The Home Office announced earlier this year that non-EEA partners and spouses of British citizens and permanent residents wishing to extend their existing UK settlement visa or leave to remain from inside the UK on or after May 1, 2017 will need to pass a new mandatory English test. The new requirement is designed to ensure that family immigrants coming to the UK under the partner route become more fluent in English and are better able to participate in community life. The implementation of the new English language requirement is set for May 2017 in order to give existing visa holders plenty of time to improve their English skills.

To understand how the new English language requirement will affect future applicants, it is helpful to look at what the current language requirements are. The current speaking and listening English language requirement is set at level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). To meet the requirement, applicants must either pass a mandatory Home Office-approved A1 level English test, or be a national of a majority English-speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), or hold a degree taught or researched in English. The currently available Home Office-approved tests include an International English Language Test System (IELTS) Life Skills test and Trinity College graded examinations in spoken English grade 2. Both are specifically designed for partners. To qualify for an exemption under the current policy an applicant must be over 65, or have a disability or exceptional circumstances that prevent them from meeting the English language requirement.

The new A2 English language requirement will come into effect on May 1, 2017. The existing A1 English language test will be replaced by a higher level A2 test. The new requirement will apply to non-EEA nationals who have already been living in the UK for at least 30 months as a partner or spouse of a British citizen or UK-settled person (ILR holder) and who are applying to extend their existing leave to remain. The new requirement will not apply to first time applicants submitting a UK settlement fiancée, unmarried partner or marriage visa application from outside the UK. To qualify for further leave to remain (FLR) under the partner route, applicants will have to pass an English language speaking and listening test at level A2 or higher.

It should be noted that it does not apply to visa holders whose leave to enter or remain expires before May 1, 2017. It does affect anyone whose leave expires on or after May 1, 2017. Anyone applying after this date must pass an approved A2 test before they can submit a leave to remain application. For people whose leave to remain expires in May 2017 or after, it is therefore important to make sure they have the required English skills, or can work on meeting them in time to submit their extension application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) when it is due.

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