Following the announcement by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) on 26th July 2010, the new English language test is set to come into force on 29th November 2010.
The new immigration rules will relate to migrants who are the fiancee/fiance, spouse, de facto (unmarried) partner or same sex partner of a British citizen or lawful permanent resident, and who wish to live in the UK on a permanent basis. The test is designed to prove that the applicant has a strong enough understanding of the English language to enable them to live in the UK. From the 29th November 2010, any non-EEA/EU national that wishes to extend their stay in the UK by submitting an FLRm (further leave to remain) application, or apply for a UK settlement fiancee/fiance, partner or marriage visa, must take and pass this test for their application to be considered.
With the purpose of the test to prove that the applicant can speak and understand English, reading and writing ability is not tested. It is understood that the test will be a verbal one, with both listening and spoken elements. The minimum level of spoken English that will pass the test is what is known as level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference, and this is expected to require around 45 hours of tuition in order to reach a level of understanding of basic everyday language.
The English language tests will be taken at one of a number of approved testing centres, with each able to decide on its own price for the test. This will therefore vary from country to country, and among testing centres. There is expected to be a list of centres, with the charges, on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) website.
The only way in which a UK settlement fiancee/fiance or UK partner/spousal visa applicant will not be required to take the English language test is if they are a national of a predominately English speaking country, as they will be presumed to pass the test automatically. Such countries include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United States of America
Another way to satisfy the test requirements without actually having to take, and indeed pay for, the test, is for the applicant to prove that they have an academic qualification that is recognised by UK NARIC as being at least the standard of a Batchelor’s Degree and to have been primarily taught in English.
It is worth noting that the English language test is required for any applicant of a UK marriage visa, UK spouse visa or a UK fiancée visa, for both opposite sex and same sex relationships, for any national from outside the European Economic Area (including Switzerland) that does not meet the criteria of UK NARIC or being from an English speaking country. The only people that do not need to pass the test in addition to these categories are those who are over 65 years old or can prove there are medical or compassionate reasons that prevent them from taking the test.