New English language requirement for settlement and naturalisation applicants in the UK

Published: 25/10/2013

Effective 28 October 2013, the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK requirement (KOLL) will be split into two sections. Each of these new requirements needs to be met by applicants for settlement (indefinite leave to remain or ILR) and naturalisation in the UK. However, there are exemptions that may apply to certain categories of applicants, these are explained below.

Part one – Applicants must pass the Life in the UK test (KOL).

Part two – In addition to passing the Life in the UK test, applicants must also possess a B1 CEFR qualification, speaking and listening in English, or a similar recognised qualification.

KOL requirements prior to 28 October 2013

The Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK (KOL) requirement was first introduced in 2005. It was decided that any individual who wanted to settle in the UK or apply for naturalisation to become a British Citizen should show a reasonable knowledge of British culture and the English language. This was considered to be the bare minimum skill set that a non-UK citizen needed to possess in order to make the transition to the UK successfully. By passing the Life in the UK test or English test for Speakers of Other Languages qualification (ESOL), the applicant would show sufficient awareness of the UK’s official language, culture and history. In return for meeting this requirement, the applicant would be awarded Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status to settle in the UK on a permanent basis.

New KOLL requirements for settlement in the UK

All adults that apply for settlement in the UK after 28 October 2013 need to meet the new KOLL requirement. This includes children of principal applicants that are over 18 years of age, although there are some exceptions to this rule. A full explanation detailing the exempt categories is given below.

New KOLL requirements for naturalisation in the UK

Applicants for naturalisation in the UK will also need to meet the new KOLL requirement. There are also some exceptions to this rule as explained below.

The Life in the UK test

The existing Life in the UK test will not be altered, and the multiple choice test is available via the existing test centre network. The previous booking arrangements remain the same. Applicants can use the official handbook ‘Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents’, for their test preparation. The reasoning behind this testing medium is fairly simple: If you are expected to come and live your life in the UK, you should really understand British culture and the history of the country.

English Language Qualifications required after 28 October 2013

In addition to passing the Life in the UK test, applicants are now required to hold an English language qualification that meets the B1 standards for speaking and listening. There are a variety of qualifications that meet these criteria, and the following three methods are acceptable:

  • English language qualifications that cover speaking and listening at level B1 or higher.
  • English language qualifications in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Entry Level 3, Level 1 or Level 2. These must include speaking and listening tests that are regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations (Ofqual). The actual qualification has to be listed as an ESOL qualification on the Ofqual Register of Regulated Qualifications and this test must be taken within England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Alternatively, applicants can also use the National Qualification in ESOL at Scottish Qualifications Framework levels 4, 5 or 6 to meet the English language requirements.

Applicants must achieve an English language qualification to level B1; however, they are not required to study for this at any particular learning centre. Applicants may study at any convenient location and any proof of accredited study methods will not be required.

English taught degrees

Applicants that hold a recognised degree that was taught in English will not be required to pass the B1 level English test. Instead, they must provide evidence that the degree was taught in English and it must meet either Bachelor’s or Master’s degree levels in the UK. Applicants will still need to pass the Life in the UK test in order to show their understanding of the UK culture.

Nationals of majority English speaking countries

Applicants who are from majority English speaking countries listed below are not required to take the B1 English language test, but they will still need to pass the Life in the UK test.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • The United States of America

The Republic of Ireland will be included for naturalisation purposes and each case will be reviewed to see if any more additions are needed.

Already hold a B1 level qualification?

Applicants who already demonstrated the required English skills when they originally obtained entry clearance as a fiancee, spouse or unmarried partner of a British Citizen or UK legal permanent resident, will not be required to do so again for settlement purposes, as long as their test results are still valid.

Already have settlement but wish to apply for naturalisation?

Applicants who wish to apply for naturalisation to become a British Citizen will be required to meet the new KOLL requirement after 28 October 2013. However, applicants who have already met the requirements for passing the Life in the UK test will not be required to take the test again.

Already granted settlement under the new requirements?

Applicants who fulfilled the Life in the UK settlement requirements on or after 28 October 2013 will not be required to do so again for naturalisation purposes.

Exemption and transitional arrangement details

KOLL requirement exemption

Children under the age of 18 and adults over the age of 65 will be exempt from the KOLL requirement for settlement and naturalisation purposes. Any applicants who have a mental or physical condition that affects their learning abilities will also be exempt from KOLL requirements. This is because their ability to learn and communicate English will be severely restricted and it would not be deemed fair for these individuals to undergo the testing procedure.

Other exemption routes for the purpose of settlement

Certain migration routes exist whereby the applicants are more likely to be over the age of 65 or perhaps have a disability. This is likely when these applicants have followed their family to the UK and are dependent on them. In these cases, the applicants will be exempt from the KOLL requirement regarding settling in the UK.

Certain groups of potential settlers may have been placed in a vulnerable situation before obtaining permanent residence in the UK. These are individuals who have experienced either domestic violence or whose spouses have since died. This group of applicants will be exempt from the KOLL requirement.

Refugees and individuals who have humanitarian protection in place for personal safety reasons will remain exempt from the KOLL requirement due to their status. Individuals who have been granted discretionary leave (DL) will also continue to receive UK settle/naturalisation requirement exemption. This particular group’s entry requirement may be reviewed at a later date.

Transitional arrangements for settlement applications

It is understandable that the new KOLL requirement changes may appear daunting at first. UK Visas & Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency) will therefore allow certain categories of applicants to apply for extended period of limited leave to remain in order to meet the new requirements, as long as they meet all of the existing and relevant immigration rules that apply to their individual circumstances. This provision applies to partners, parents and children of British Citizens and UK legal permanent residents.

UK Visas & Immigration will also introduce certain provisions that will allow individuals who have been in the UK for 15 years with limited leave to remain as partner, parent or child (under Appendix FM or the transitional arrangements covered by Part 8), also the dependants of HM Forces personnel, or the dependants of PBS migrant workers or work permit holders, to make an application for settlement in the UK if they meet the requirements of an English speaking and listening test to level A2 CEFR. They will be exempt from passing the Life in the UK test, but they will be required to show suitable evidence that displays their capability of reaching the level B1 in English. This can be obtained from a recognised teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Transitional considerations for naturalisation applicants

There will be no transitional arrangements for those individuals who would like to naturalise as a British citizen. Applicant can take as long as they wish when preparing for the UK naturalisation application.

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