From Autumn 2010 all non-European migrants will have to demonstrate a basic command of English that allows them to cope with everyday life before they are granted a visa.
The rules will apply to spouses, civil partnerships, unmarried couples, same sex partners and fiancés, and will be compulsory for people applying from within the UK, as well as visa applicants from overseas.
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.”
Anyone wishing to come to the UK as a spouse will have to demonstrate basic English at A1 level, the same level required for skilled workers admitted under the Skilled Tier of the Points Based System.
A spouse coming from outside Europe will need to provide evidence to the UK Border Agency with their visa application that they have passed an English language test with one of the UK Border Agency’s approved test providers.
Under the current rules spousal visa applicants already have to meet a range of criteria before being allowed to enter the UK. All applicants must show their marriage or partnership is genuine and that they can support themselves financially.
Whether you 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.
Spouses applying for indefinite leave to remain after completing their two-year period of temporary residence will still need to fulfil the Knowledge of Life and Language in the UK Test. This is in addition to this new basic English language requirement which forms part of their initial application.