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You Must Do IELTS To Prove Your Proficiency In English | Immigration Matters

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By Cynthia Barker
Recruitment & Immigration Adviser

27 September 2006

Maricel, a Filipina Senior Care Worker, came to the UK as a visitor in 2004 to visit her sister. Whilst visiting the UK, she saw opportunities for care work and consulted Bison UK to apply for her work permit.

Although she found a job, and received an approval of employment (Work Permit) from the Home Office, she had to return home to apply for entry clearance in Manila because she was caught up in the tightening of rules on ‘switching’ visas.

Yes, Maricel then of course went back to the Philippines to apply for a new Entry Clearance. It was here that she encountered another common hurdle. Despite the fact that Maricel was fluent in English, and had worked in the Middle East for 3 years, the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) refused her on the basis of not being satisfied of her evidence of “training and abilities” and her “abilities in English”.

During the interview in Manila, the ECO brought in an interpreter, even though Maricel had not requested one.

Obtaining a Work Permit for a much needed overseas worker is not easy. Candidates and employers are thoroughly scrutinised and the job itself must meet strict Home Office criteria.

Why, then, can an ECO in a far flung British Consulate just throw out an application after a five minute interview?

ECO’s in countries like The Philippines, India, and Nigeria refuse thousands of applications each year for entry to the UK to take up jobs for which Work Permits have been issued. Figures published by Hansard (transcripts of debates in the UK Parliament), show that, from April 2004 to April 2005, 483,000 visa applications were refused.

Following Maricel’s refusal, we instructed our Appeal Specialist to lodge an immediate appeal. The case was eventually heard over six months later on Tuesday 28th September, at Columbus House, in Newport, Wales.

Charles Kelly at Columbus House

Charles Kelly (pictured) attended the hearing as witness for Bison UK. He testified that Maricel had been interviewed by both Bison UK and the employer who was satisfied with her experience and English. Charles explained to the Judge that English is a second language in the Philippines and that it is virtually an English speaking country.

“Most of the newspapers and television shows are in English and everywhere you go people speak English” he continued.

The Judge asked Charles if he had been to the Philippines. Charles replied:

“Yes, many times, in fact we were there in July promoting our book How 2 Come to the UK !”

Charles went on to explain that thousands of our Filipino candidates have successfully integrated into British society and are extremely popular with employers.

The Judge stated that he was happy with the evidence provided by Charles Kelly and that Bison UK had carried out sufficient checks. He allowed the appeal.

Whilst on the subject of English, lot of people ask what standard of English they require to get a job in the UK. Many have heard of the British Council’s International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which is a recognised standard. What many do not know, is that the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) has recently announced that it would, effective from 1 February 2007, be raising the minimum English language overall IELTS pass score for overseas-trained nurses and midwives coming to work in the UK.

The IELTS is compulsory for all nurses trained outside the European Economic Area (EEA), but the minimum overall score, in the academic version of the test, is currently set at 6.5 (out of a possible 9). From 1 February 2007, overseas-trained nurses and midwives in the academic test will have to achieve a score of 7.0 in the listening and reading sections, 7.0 in the writing and speaking section, and an overall average score of 7 (out of a possible 9).

Although compulsory for nurses, IELTS is a useful programme for anyone thinking of working or studying in the UK. The better your English, the better your chances of succeeding in the English speaking world, which includes the Philippines. Furthermore, an ECO could not accuse a visa applicant in possession of a high IELTS score of lacking sufficient English ability. For further information on IELTS go to

So, the message is clear: take IELTS if you want to work or study in the UK.

If you are concerned about your current status, or wish to make sure you have the correct paperwork, email or consult your immigration adviser.

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