UK immigration English language requirements for partners are changing

Published: 03/04/2015

After 6 April 2015, the only recognised awarding bodies for Secure English Language Tests (SELT) will be the Cambridge English Language Assessments for applicants from outside the UK, or Trinity College GESE or ISE qualifications for applicants within the country. Applicants in the UK can also take the Cambridge English Language Assessments test commonly known as IELTS. There will be 10 approved Trinity test centres and 10 approved IELTS centres within the UK. Internationally there will be 198 centres consisting of permanent premises and pop-up centres, which will operate at least every three months. These new pop-up venues have been created to help provide access to visa applicants who could not previously easily get to an approved centre, either through remoteness of location, or where English is the predominant language and provisions were lacking. Details of availability and booking will be available early April 2015.

There is international recognition of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) as the benchmark for non-English speaking visa applicants in different areas of the globe, not just England and the Commonwealth countries of New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Over 9,000 international employers and academic institutions have come to recognise the qualifications provided by the IELTS since it began in 1990. The British government has introduced changes to how and where these qualifications are delivered with a view to better improve potential visa applicants’ prospects. Not only will there be a larger number of test centres opening up internationally, reaching wider communities and different parts of the world, but the qualifications themselves have gone through changes making the assessments less academic and more useful in a day to day scenario.

Previously, the IELTS qualifications offered both academic and general training pathways for those wishing to enter the UK on a settlement fiancée, partner or marriage visa. Both have elements of writing, reading, listening and speaking. The new IELTS Life Skills qualification will be implemented after 6 April 2015 to help improve the speaking and listening skills of non-English speakers to allow them to communicate more effectively without requiring accompanying written and reading skills. Although the levels of literacy and numeracy within the UK and other English speaking countries are high on an international level, it is widely recognised that the real determining factor within society is verbal and aural communication, and that low levels of literacy should not affect an individual’s ability to work in certain fields.

There are a variety of different bodies that offer English qualifications for listening and speaking. Cambridge English Language Assessment is the primary body for basic English language tests, and provides a wide range of qualifications for those wishing to branch out in to specific areas of commerce, business or law. Trinity College offers the ISE or Integrated Skills in English, which helps with communication and graded tests to assess literacy and understanding. It may be wise to take English lessons before attempting the mandatory UKVI-approved English test for partners and spouses as test fees are non-refundable regardless of the outcome.

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