The long-discussed requirements for a stricter English language test for immigrants marrying British citizens are set to come into force sooner than expected.
As part of the new Conservative Liberal coalition government and its much-publicised crackdown on a number of ‘socially emotive’ issues, the need for immigrants to have a fair command of the English language is likely to be enforced by the autumn of 2010.
The plans will impact on UK marriage visa applications and all UK settlement visa applications, including fiancée, de facto and same sex partner visa applications, with all applicants from outside the EU required to pass a test prior to their UK marriage visa being processed and accepted.
Whereas the current UK fiancée visa applications or marriage visa applications are only required to prove the validity of the relationship and the sponsor’s ability to financially support their partner and any dependants, the language test will now be an additional requirement. It is not thought that the test will be especially comprehensive, with the ability to introduce oneself and ask basic questions the level that’s needed, but it is widely considered to be necessary in order for positive integration of overseas immigrants into the UK.
Home Secretary Theresa May believes the change will ‘help promote integration’. She said, “I believe being able to speak English should be a pre-requisite for anyone that wants to settle here. The new English requirement for spouses will help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services.”
With latest official figures showing that 59,000 people from outside the UK were granted UK spouse or partner visas between January and December 2009, it’s clear that this is both a large and important task. It is predicted that the language test will see 10 per cent fewer applications as applicants realise their language is not up to the required standard, with applicants from China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh predicted to be most affected.
As a result of these predictions, campaigners from organisations such as the Migrants’ Rights Network are concerned that the UK’s large population from these countries will be hardest hit, as families are unable to be reunited in the UK. It is hoped that support will be available for UK marriage visa applications to learn English in order to satisfy the UKBA requirements of the application process.