Immigrants to face English language test

Immigrants coming to Britain to marry or join their partner will soon be asked to take an English language test first, the Government announced today.

All non-European migrants will have to demonstrate basic communication skills that enable them to deal with everyday life before receiving a visa.

The measure, due to come into force this autumn, will apply to spouses and unmarried couples who are already in Britain as well as overseas applicants.

Anyone wishing to come to Britain must first demonstrate they can speak English at the same level required for skilled workers admitted under the points-based system.

The introduction of an English language test was one of four key elements of the Conservatives' election manifesto.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to promote the integration of newcomers into British society. But his deputy Nick Clegg questioned similar policies under Labour and highlighted how Britons may struggle abroad if other nations implemented tests.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I believe being able to speak English should be a pre-requisite for anyone who wants to settle here.

"The new English requirement for spouses will help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services.

"It is a privilege to come to the UK and that is why I am committed to raising the bar for migrants and ensuring that those who benefit from being in Britain contribute to our society.

"This is only the first step. We are currently reviewing English language requirements across the visa system with a view to tightening the rules further in the future.

"Today's announcement is one of a wide range of measures the new Government is taking to ensure that immigration is properly controlled for the benefit of the UK, alongside a limit on work visas and an effective system for regulating the students who come here."

The prospect of English language tests for migrants heading for Britain was raised several times by the previous administration.

In 2002, the then home secretary David Blunkett announced proposals for tests on language and the ways of British life. Citizenship tests were introduced but English tests for foreign spouses failed to win backing and were quietly shelved.

The new plans mean a spouse coming from outside Europe must provide evidence they have passed an English language test by an approved provider.

Visa applicants in these circumstances must already meet a range of criteria before being allowed to enter the UK under current rules.

All applicants must show their marriage or partnership is genuine and that they can support themselves financially.

Whether people are married in the UK or overseas, the non-UK partner must apply for a two-year settlement visa to come and live in the UK as a spouse.

At the end of the two years they can apply to the UK Border Agency for indefinite leave to remain.

Last year some 38,000 visas for spouses were granted and a further 21,000 people were granted indefinite leave to remain.

The move is likely to have a particular impact on Britain's Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, who make up a large proportion of these figures.

Isabella Sankey, of Liberty, labelled the news "disgraceful" and said some people may be unfairly penalised.

She said: "While a good command of English is clearly beneficial for someone settling in the UK with their partner or spouse, making this a prerequisite to entering the country is disgraceful.

"What happens to the happily married British citizen with a non English-speaking spouse who returns from abroad to care for elderly parents?

"Surely a common-sense approach would acknowledge how much easier it is to learn English once in the UK."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect