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Supreme court rules on English Language requirements

In today’s blog post we will cover the recent ruling by the supreme court in regards to English language requirements for spouse or civil partners of a British person or a settled person in the UK.

Since 2010 the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen or settled person have been required to fulfil an English language test as part of the visa requirements. Before this rule was introduced the spouse or civil partner had to show a similar level of English language ability after being in the country for two years.

Proof of the ability to meet the requirements of the English language test can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. Firstly, passing an approved English language test, a list of test centres can be found on the Home Office’s website, with at least a CEFR level of A1 in speaking and writing. Another method to meet the requirements is to have an academic qualification that was taught in English and recognised by UK NARIC as being the equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree. However, if you a national of certain countries you are exempt from having to meet the requirements, a full list can be found here.

The idea of introducing the requirement was to assist integration into British society, reduce the need for translators, improve employment chances and help to protect potentially vulnerable spouses.

However, recently the requirement has come into disrepute following the appeals of two British citizens whose husbands cannot speak English and are foreign nationals and want to join their wives in the UK. The women claimed that the requirements would violate their right to private and family life under article 8 of the European convention on Human rights. However, the Supreme Court categorically rejected that the rule did not infringe on their human rights. The Supreme Court did, however, recognise that in certain cases exemptions may be granted to the rule.

The development is interesting because it demonstrates that the supreme court recognises the rule as something that ultimately benefits the individual in assisting them in assimilating into the UK yet also gives space for discretion should the requirement come into dispute.

Ultimately, it seems that the rule exists for the benefit of both parties (the state and the migrant) and benefits both.  A similar rule exists for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa (an investment route into the UK) where, amongst meeting other requirements, the applicant has to demonstrate a certain level of English. The level of English required however is much higher than that required for the spouse or civil partner visa.

Do you think that the Supreme Court made the correct decision? Should certain migrants have to meet certain language requirements?

Westkin Associates


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

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