UK Government Sees Setback on Language Requirements

Published: 15/04/2011

Recent developments in the UK Government’s aim to introduce compulsory minimum English language standards for foreign nationals applying for a spouse, de facto partner or fiancé(e) have come up against a stumbling block.
This block had been widely expected in that there was a clear potential for calls of discrimination over the initial plans to introduce compulsory language standards, so this latest chapter is no surprise to immigration professionals.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA)’s spouse, partner and marriage visa application requirements that required a minimum level of written and spoken English in order for the UK settlement visa application to be accepted was intended to be for all partners of British Citizens and lawful permanent residents of the UK that did not come from a country where English was the recognised official language. The intention was that the spouse or partner would be tested at one of a number of recognised testing centres.
The setback to this plan has been instigated by a ruling by the High Court in Birmingham on 1st March 2011, whereby Mr Justice Beatson granted permission for three claimants to be given a judicial review with regards to the UK settlement visa English language requirements. On the basis that the discrimination of the criteria came from it only applying to certain countries, when indeed there was no certainty that applicants from these countries would pass the English language test, Mr Justice Beatson made this significant ruling.
The rationale behind the UK Government’s English language requirements for migrants and their spouse or partner was noted as, “The new rules will help promote the economic well-being of the UK, for example by encouraging integration and protecting public services. It will also assist in removing cultural barriers, broaden opportunities for migrants and help to ensure that they are equipped to play a full part in British life.”
Much of the criticism of the language requirement was levelled at the fact that it was possibly a thinly-veiled attempt to reduce the number of migrants, and their spouses, from outside of the EU and from outside of the largely English speaking countries of the USA, Canada and Australia. With the three claimants granted permission to apply for judicial review nationals of Pakistan, Yemen and India who do not speak, read or write English, this criticism may not be hushed by this case. The three also highlighted that the language requirements breached their human rights, including Article 8 Family Life, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The reviews are expected to be heard on July 18th and 19th 2011.

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