Immigration Update – Changes to the English Language Requirement

12th April 2017

New rules to be introduced from 1 May 2017 could lead to the rejection of applications for further leave to remain if English language skills have not progressed to the new benchmark level.

The changes to the Immigration rules apply to applicants who are in the UK (or will enter the UK) as a partner or parent of a British national or settled person and who are applying for further leave to remain in that category on a 5-year partner or parent route to settlement.  Those applicants will be required to obtain an approved English language speaking and listening qualification at level A2 or higher unless they:

  • Are a national of a majority English-speaking country;
  • Hold a degree taught or researched in English; or
  • Are exempt from the requirement because:
    • They are aged 65 or over;
    • They have a disability which prevents them from meeting the requirement; or
    • There are exceptional circumstances which prevent them from being able to meet the requirement.

This change to the Immigration Rules implements former Prime Minister David Cameron’s intention to introduce measures to develop the language skills of migrants with the associated benefits of assisting their integration into British life by, for example, making it easier for them to find work and support their children’s education.

A more advanced level of speaking and understanding English is needed than the existing A1 requirement.  A1 requires the migrant to demonstrate that they can speak and understand a basic level of English.  As an extension of leave to remain often leads to a future application for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) after the minimum 5 years’ residence, the A2 requirement enables migrants to work towards the even more advanced B1 level required at that settlement stage.  At A2 level, a person can express simple opinions; understand the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements; and interact in short conversations on familiar topics provided the other person helps if necessary.

The Immigration Rules provide that if an applicant fails to meet the A2 English language requirement for further leave to remain as a parent or parent under the 5-year route to settlement after 30 months in the UK will have to meet the relevant requirements of Appendix FM or demonstrate exceptional circumstances in order to be granted leave to remain here on family or private life grounds under a 10-year route to settlement.  They will still have to meet the B1 English language requirement and pass the Life in the UK test in order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain after 10 years.

Trinity College London and IELTS SELT Consortium are the approved test providers under the Immigration Rules to provide A2 level English language speaking and listening tests.  The tests cost £150 and are only available in the UK at approved test centres.

Any partners or parents looking to extend their leave after 30 April 2017 should ensure that they have evidence of the correct level of English well in advance of their application for further leave to remain.

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