Individuals making a spouse visa application under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules must demonstrate that they meet the English language requirement. Carter Thomas associate, Jessica Walker, reviews the requirements.
The English language requirement differs at each stage of the spouse visa application process, with those submitting an initial application required to demonstrate their ability to a lower level than those applying for further leave or Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’).
Those applying for initial permission to enter the UK must demonstrate that they have a knowledge of English language which is to a minimum of level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (‘CEFR’). Those applying for permission to remain need to demonstrate that they have a knowledge of English language to a minimum level of A2 and those applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, also known as ‘settlement’ need to demonstrate a minimum knowledge of English to level B1.
The different methods of demonstrating English language ability are set out below.
National of a majority English speaking country
Spouse visa applicants who are a national of a majority English speaking country will not be required to provide any evidence of their English language ability other than their passport.
The following countries are considered to be majority English speaking:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Holding a degree
Those who hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or a PhD, awarded by an educational establishment in the UK can rely on this to meet the English language requirement.
Individuals who hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD that was awarded by an educational institute outside of the UK, will be required to obtain confirmation from UK NARIC that the award is at an equivalent level to a UK degree. This is still the case even if the award was issued in a majority English speaking country.
In addition, certain applicants will be required to obtain UK NARIC confirmation that the award was taught or researched in English to a suitable level of the CEFR.
English language test
If the spouse visa applicant is not a national of a majority English speaking country and does not hold a relevant degree, they will need to take an approved English language test in speaking and listening, in order to demonstrate that they meet the English language requirement.
In order for an English language test to be classed as an approved test, it must be taken through a Home Office approved Secure English Language Testing (‘SELT’) provider. SELT tests are only available through Trinity College London (UK only) or IELTS SELT Consortium (UK and overseas).
When booking a test, an applicant should ensure that they select the option of sitting a test for UKVI purposes rather than a general or academic test. An application is likely to be refused where an applicant has sat a general or academic test rather than a UKVI approved test or where their test has expired. The majority of tests are valid for two years.
Exemptions from meeting the English language requirement
Certain individuals are exempt from meeting the English language requirement. An individual is not required to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language if:
- they are aged 65 or over;
- they are unable to meet the requirement due to a long-term physical or mental condition; or
- there are exceptional circumstances which prevent the applicant from being able to meet the requirement prior to entry to the UK.
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