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Supreme Court Rules Migrants Must Speak English To Join Spouses UK

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The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that anyone wishing to join their spouse in the UK must learn English and pass the required English language test.

The five Judges unanimously rejected claims by Saiqa Bibi and Saffana Ali that the pre-entry English test breached their right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Unreasonable, Disproportionate and Discriminatory”

The two women, who are both British Citizens, argued that the language requirement was “unreasonable, disproportionate and discriminatory” and stated that their spouses, Bibi and Ali, who are from Pakistan and Yemen respectively, would have to learn computer skills and travel great distances to take the required English tests.

The requirement was further argued to be unreasonable due to the individual circumstances of the men. Ali, was described as having no formal education. There is no approved test centre in Yemen that provides tuition in English to the required level. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the nearest test centre for Bibi was 70 miles away.

The English Language Requirements

Non-EEA spouses of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK have been required to sit a recognised English language test before being granted entry into the country since late 2010.

The key objectives of introducing a pre-entry English requirement for spouses were said to be:

  • To assist the spouse’s integration into British society at an early stage;
  • To improve Employment chances for those who have access to the labour market;
  • To raise awareness of the importance of language and to prepare for the tests they will need to pass for settlement.

Both the high court and the Court of Appeal had ruled against the women in previous judgments, declaring that the requirement did not interfere with the right to marriage and was legitimate in its aim to protect public services and promote integration.

Door Left Open for Claims of Impracticality

Despite dismissing the appeals, the Supreme Court did request further arguments about how the scheme operated and declared the Home Office’s “harsh and unreasonable” guidance put many couples in "an impossible situation, and may well be unlawful". It also stated that exemptions should be made in cases involving where the requirement was impractical as in these situations the principles contained in Article 8 may well be breached.

OTS Solicitors are experts in the field of Immigration and civil liberties law. If you have any questions about this ruling or any other aspect of Immigration law, please call our office on 0207 936 9960 to discuss your best options and to then book an appointment to see our Immigration solicitors.

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