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English language requirements for UK immigration routes

In most immigration routes for entry to the UK, there is a minimum level of English required. This blog gives an overview of the different requirements of the different routes and the different ways in which the test can be met. Westkin Associates have years of practice in these areas and it is surprisingly common for us to be approached by people who have had applications refused for not meeting the English language requirement, despite them believing that they had met it when making the application.

As you are likely to already be aware, immigration applications are VERY expensive and an error in the documentary evidence produced to meet the English language requirement can be extremely costly.

This blog gives generalized information, we ask that you contact us for advice on individual applications.

An Immigration lawyer advises on how to meet the English Language Requirement

Route 1

There are usually three ways in which to meet the English language requirement on an application for leave to enter or remain in the UK. The first way is to pass a test at the correct level, the second way is to have a degree level or above qualification taught in English and the third way is to be a national of a majority English speaking country.

In order to pass a test at the correct level you first need to work out the level. The level is different for different applications, for example, an entry clearance application for a spouse requires that you pass an English test at level A1 CEFR. When you extend your leave as a spouse in the UK and you currently have leave to enter as a spouse, then you will need to pass an English test at level A2.

To obtain entry clearance as a Tier 2 migrant would require you to have passed an English language test at level B1. A migrant coming to the UK to study as an adult could require either level BI or B2 depending on the course.

It’s insufficient to simply pass a test at the required level, you must pass an approved test. This is another area that migrants commonly get wrong. For example, if applying for entry clearance, migrants often sit the IELTs tests, however, when booking the test the applicant must book the IELTs test ‘for UKVI’. Failure to sit the ‘for UKVI’ test will result in the subsequent immigration application being refused. If you are unsure if the test you have sat is the correct test, Westkin associates can check your certificate.

Route 2- A degree level qualification

The second route mentioned above is having a degree level qualification in English. If your degree is from a British university, the certificate confirming you’ve passed your degree is sufficient for meeting the language requirement. If, however, your degree level course was taught in English in another non-English speaking (see below) country, then you will need to obtain confirmation from UK NARIC that the course was both taught in English and a degree level course. This is another hurdle where applicants often fail. The UK NARIC website offers confirmations that are UKVI compliant and others that are not. It’s extremely important that an applicant obtains the correct UK NARIC certificate.

Route 3 – National of an English Speaking Country – according to the Home Office

Finally, an applicant can be a national an English speaking country in order to meet the English language requirement. It’s insufficient to rely on the fact that you speak English as your first language. Notably, South Africa is not on the list of majority English speaking countries. The test is objective and it is therefore a case of ‘not on the list; not coming in’ regardless of your actual ability to speak English.

The lesson here is check before you apply. Mistakes in immigration applications are expensive and sometimes damaging to your immigration history.

Westkin Associates


5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
United Kingdom
0207 118 4546

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