Spouse visa and the English language test
When it comes to the language of love you do not tend to think of the English language. Most people would say that the French language is the true language of love but not according to UK Immigration Rules. If you want to reunite with your spouse on a UK spouse visa then you will need to meet the English language test requirement.
spouse visa solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors are experts in Immigration law and specialise in spouse visas. Our Immigration solicitors can advise you on the requirements for a spouse visa and guide you on the best way to secure or extend your spouse visa.
For fast professional advice from friendly UK spouse visa solicitors call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Why have an English language test
The English language test that applicants for UK Spouse Visas are required to pass was introduced back in 2010 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May. The stated intention behind the introduction of the English language test was to assist with integration of non-EEA nationals entering the UK on Spouse Visas as well as applicants for other types of visas and UK entry clearance.
The English language requirement
The rules on the English language requirement for spouse visa applicants are set out in the ‘English language requirement: family members under Part 8, Appendix FM’. The guidance was last updated on the 1 October 2019.
Exemptions to the English language requirement
It is not uncommon for spouse visa applicants to ask if there are exemptions to the spouse visa English language requirement as they either do not think they will pass the test or simply fear failure.
Although the Home Office guidance says that exemptions can be made they are in fairly limited circumstances, namely if you are:
• Age sixty five or over at date of spouse visa application ; or
• Have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from meeting the requirement; or
• Able to say there are exceptional circumstances to your application that prevent compliance with the English language requirement.
In practice, the overwhelming majority of spouse visa applicants have to pass the English language test as they will not fit within any of the three exemptions.
Alternatives to the English language test
Although you may not be exempt from fulfilling the English language requirement as part of your spouse visa application you may not need to sit an English language test if you fall within one of two Home Office categories where you are deemed to not need to prove your ability with the English language.
The categories are:
• You are a national of a majority English speaking country; or
• You have a degree qualification that was taught in English.
If you do not fall within either of those two categories then you will need to take the English language test as part of your eligibility criteria for the spouse visa.
The definition of majority English speaking countries
You will not be surprised to learn that the Home Office keeps a list of countries that it deems to be ‘majority English speaking’. Provided that you are a national of one of those countries you do not need to prove your ability with the English language as it is automatically assumed that you would pass the English language test.
‘Majority English speaking countries’ are defined by the Home Office as:
• Antigua and Barbuda;
• New Zealand;
• St Kitts and Nevis;
• St Lucia;
• St Vincent and the Grenadines;
• Trinidad and Tobago;
• United States of America.
Proving you come from a majority English speaking country
Proving that you come from a majority English speaking country is not as difficult as some spouse visa applicants imagine. All you need to show is your passport as evidence of your nationally and thus exemption from any enquiry into your ability to speak English or requirement to sit an English language test.
A degree qualification taught in English
If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country then you may be able to avoid taking an English language test if you were educated to degree level in English. The degree level qualification could be studied in the UK or overseas provided it meets Home Office criteria.
The Home Office has lists of acceptable qualifications that officials define as ‘an academic qualification which is either a Bachelor or Masters or PhD awarded by an educational establishment in the UK’. If your degree was taught in the UK then production of evidence of the qualification is sufficient.
If you received your degree or relevant qualification from an overseas country the position is a bit more complex. The Home Office has published a list of countries where if you were awarded your qualification in that country it is assumed you meet the English language test because the Home Office assumes your course was taught in English. To make things perhaps more complicated than they really need to be, that list of countries is slightly different to the Home Office list of majority speaking English countries.
If your degree was taken in a country that is not on the approved list of countries then you can obtain confirmation from UK NARIC that your qualification is the equivalent of a degree obtained in the UK.
If you think that your qualification exempts you from sitting the English language test it is best to take legal advice from a spouse visa solicitor given the intricacies of the Home Office rules.
The English language test
You may have no option other than to sit the English language test to prove that you meet the English language requirement for a spouse visa.
Prior to your booking an English language test it is essential that you do your research to make sure that the test is recognised by the Home Office and meets their criteria:
• The test must be an approved English language test; and
• The test must be taken with an approved Secure English Language Testing provider; and
• The test must be taken at an approved English language test centre.
The approved English language tests and providers are set out in the Immigration Rules but it is best to check with a spouse visa solicitor that your test meets the Home Office guidelines as otherwise you will need to take a test with an alternate approved provider.
Validity of an English language test
For your English language test to be valid for spouse visa application purposes it must be:
• Carried out for the purposes of an Immigration application. If your English language test is just classed as a ‘general’ test it will not be adequate; and
• Your English language test is only valid for two years from the date of certificate. That gives you a two year window of opportunity to submit your spouse visa application.
When speaking to spouse visa applicants what is often clear is the worry that the English language test requirement creates. If you are concerned about your eligibility to meet the spouse visa eligibility requirements or passing the English language test it is best to take legal advice on the spouse visa application process.