The English Language Requirement was introduced by the last Labour Government. The Government's stated aim was that knowledge of English would enable integration by the individual migrant into UK life. For many families it has resulted in lengthy separations, as family members who have no prior knowledge of English whatsoever have struggled to learn the language and pass the required test.
There have been legal challenges to the imposition of the test, but unlike other strategic litigation challenges to changes in immigration law these have not succeeded, and it's clear that the English Language requirement is here to stay.
Recently, the requirement has become the target of Government attention following well publicized abuses of the system.
In order to crackdown on these abuses, the Government has introduced even more stringent rules on how the requirement can be satisfied, and just as importantly what evidence is needed to demonstrate that the requirement is met.
This article aims to provide a summary on how an applicant can demonstrate they meet the requirement. However, before dealing with how to satisfy the requirement here is a list of the circumstances where the English language requirement is not a mandatory feature of an immigration application due to a prescribed exemption.
There are three categories of exemption:-
(i) where the applicant is under 18 and over 65
(ii) where the applicant has a physical or mental disability which prevents them from meeting the requirement
(iii) where exceptional circumstances prevent an applicant being able to meet the English language requirement, e.g. where the applicant is living in a war zone.
How can the English language requirement be met?
The requirement can be met in 3 ways
(i) Exemption on grounds of nationality. Nationals of certain majority English speaking countries listed by the Home Office are automatically considered to meet the requirement.
(ii) By holding an academic qualification taught or researched in English where the qualification is recognised to be equivalent of UK Bachelor's or Master's degree or PhD by UK NARIC. Qualifications from some countries are assumed to be taught or researched in English, for example UK qualifications. Please note the two separate criteria here; namely the degree needs to be recognised by UK NARIC and it requires to have been taught in English.
(iii) By passing an English Language Test (through a provider approved by the Home Office) in speaking and listening at a minimum level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference.
Please note that unless you are exempt from meeting the English Language requirement, you have to meet the requirement in one of the three prescribed ways.
Frequently, clients consult with us who speak perfect English, well in excess of the basic A1 standard, and who in some cases, have even completed their entire primary and secondary schooling in the UK. For such individuals, sitting a basic English Language exam may seem like be an unnecessary cost and an inconvenience, however it is absolutely necessary and must be done in order to avoid refusal of a visa.
Documentary Evidence Required
Documentary evidence, as specified by the Home Office, must be provided to demonstrate that the English requirement is met. If the requirement is not met then the Home Office will refuse the application. It is out with the scope of this blog to detail what evidence is required for each specific criteria, details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370978/20141106_mmigration_rules_appendix_fm_se_final.pdf.
Evidence of abuse in the provision of a test has led the Home Office to remove some test providers from their approved list. It is more important than ever to obtain specialist immigration advice. If you are unsure how to meet the English language requirement or need any further advice about an application under the Immigration Rules then please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Immigration team. We can refer you to an English language test provider in Scotland, offering tests approved by the Home Office.
 Nationals of: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; New Zealand; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; or the United States of America.