Changes to English language testing in the UK family route

Published: 02/08/2014

2 August 2014

Before the changes came into effect on 24 July 2014, nationals and long term residents of countries listed by the Home Office as having no UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI)-approved A1 English testing centre were not required to prove competence in the English language and so were considered exempt when applying to enter the UK on a partner, fiancee or marriage visa under the settlement category. This exemption will no longer apply and the aim is that more partners of British citizens and permanent residents who will be joining family members in the UK will have better understanding of basic English before their arrival.

Although having to prove competence in English may sound at first as though it is an additional bar to immigration, it will in fact mean that integration into British life and society should be easier, and will also reduce costs if they need to liaise with the authorities in any way, because the need for an interpreter or translator will no longer be required. Applicants who live in countries which do not offer UKVI-approved A1 English testing centres will need to travel to another country to take the test, although if this is not practicable they can apply to be considered for special exemption, which will nonetheless mean they will need to take the test before they need to reapply for an extension to stay in the UK. This requirement will be waived if the applicant is over 65 at the time of application.

When seeking exemption from taking the English test, all applicants will need to prove to the satisfaction of the UKVI officials that there are obstacles that prevent them from taking it and also, if appropriate, what reasonable steps they have taken to attempt to take the test. Sufficient evidence must be included with applications for fiancee, partner and spouse visas. Each application for exemption will be assessed on its specific merits. Some countries do not provide an A1 testing facility and travelling to a neighbouring country is considered to be too difficult. In these cases the exemption previously in place will remain, for all applications made before August 14, 2014 and will apply to long term residents of the following countries who wish to enter the UK on a settlement partner or marriage visa: Brunei; Burkina Faso; Cape Verde; Central African Republic; Chad; Comoros; Congo; Democratic Republic of Congo; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Guinea-Bissau; Haiti; Ivory Coast; Kiribati; Liberia; Madagascar; Rwanda; Samoa; Sao Tome & Principe; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Swaziland; Togo; Turkmenistan and the Wallis and Futuna Islands. The Home Office is constantly working with countries which have no A1 test centre, so this list may be subject to change in the near future.

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