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The UK Border Agency has released a new video explaining the new English language requirement for migrant partners, which will be introduced this month.

From 29 November 2010, any migrant from outside the European Economic Area will need to show that they can speak and understand English if they want to enter or extend their stay in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or someone settled here. For many, this will mean taking an English language test with an approved test provider.

The new requirement affects anyone applying as the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner, same-sex partner, fiance(e) or proposed civil partner of a British citizen or a person settled in this country. It covers those applying to extend their stay in the UK, as well as applicants from overseas.

You can find details of the English language requirement in the Partners and families section of the UK Border Agency website. A list of approved test providers is available for downloading.

The video outlines how applicants already in the UK can meet the requirement and describes some of its benefits for migrants wishing to settle in the UK.

Overseas applicants required to take a test will need to do so before they apply to come to the UK. Source: UK Border Agency

There are thousands of English Schools and Colleges both in the UK and abroad offering English or ESOL courses.

Applicants only need to demonstrate a basic command of English (speaking and listening) at level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. This is a basic starting level, which is judged to require 40 to 50 hours’ tuition for most learners. Someone assessed at level A1 can understand and use simple, everyday expressions and very basic phrases.

You will not need to demonstrate your reading and writing skills, just speaking and listening.


There are exemptions. For instance, you will not need to meet the English language requirement if you provide satisfactory evidence that:

  • you are aged 65 or over at the time when you make your application; or
  • you have a physical or mental condition which would prevent you from meeting the requirement; or
  • there are exceptional compassionate circumstances which would prevent you from meeting the requirement.

Also, if you are a national of a what the UK government considers a ‘majority English-speaking country’, you will meet the English language requirement automatically and will not need to take a test.

The following countries are deemed to be majority English-speaking countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • the United States of America

Degrees taught in English

If you have an academic qualification which is deemed by UK NARIC to meet the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s degree, this will be accepted as evidence that you can speak and understand English to level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. Therefore you will not need to take a test. For details, see the Statement of changes in Immigration Rules – October 2010 (Cm 7944).

Master’s degrees and PhDs are not acceptable as evidence, because UK NARIC can only assess whether Bachelor’s degrees (and not Master’s degrees or PhDs) were taught in English.

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit


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