Changes to the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirements

This month has brought another Statement of Intent from the UK Border Agency, this time affecting applications for settlement, or, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and naturalisation. 

The Home Secretary announced last year that from October 2013 all applicants for settlement (unless exempt) would be expected to pass both the Life in the UK (LIUK) test and to have an English speaking and listening qualification at level B1 or above.  Although the Home Secretary’s statement at the time only dealt with the requirements for settlement, this Statement of Intent confirms that the changes will also apply to naturalisation.  The changes are set to come into effect from 28 October 2013.                                                                               

Given the number of enquiries and comments on our blog which ask about the requirements for ILR, we thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of the upcoming changes in the hope that our readers will not fall short of the new criteria.

What are the changes to the requirements for settlement?

One of the requirements for settlement is that skilled migrants and their dependent family members who are aged over 18 must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and life in the UK.  This requirement is satisfied through passing the LIUK test which takes the form of a single exam paper.  Of course, it is also possible for family members to meet the requirement through obtaining a relevant ESOL qualification.

However, from the 28th October 2013 there will be two parts to the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK requirement (referred to as KoLL) and both must be met by applicants for settlement unless exempt. 

Applicants will be required to:

  • Pass the Life in the UK test and;

  • Have a speaking and listening qualification in English at level B1 on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) or higher or an equivalent level qualification.

There will be no changes to the LIUK test – the format and booking mechanisms will continue to be the same.  It is also important to note that individuals who have passed the test prior to 28 October 2013 will not be required to take the test again, even if they apply for settlement after that date.

Which English language qualifications will meet the requirements?

A range of English language qualifications will be accepted as evidence that the applicant has met the requirement to hold a B1 level speaking and listening qualification.  As far as possible, no-one who has already got an English language qualification at B1 or above will be required to take another one.  So, if a Tier 2 (General) migrant has already demonstrated that they meet the English language requirements in order to qualify for entry clearance, they will not be required to take a further test at the settlement stage.

English language qualifications that will be accepted include the usual Home Office approved Secure English Language tests, as well as qualifications in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) that include speaking and listening.

Other methods of meeting the English language requirement

Those who are nationals of majority English speaking countries and those who have obtained a degree taught in English will also be deemed to automatically meet the English Language requirement.  However, both groups will still be required to pass the LIUK test as per the current requirements.

Who needs to satisfy the requirements?

The requirements will need to be met by all applicants and dependants between the ages of 18 and 65, including adult child dependants. 

There are the usual exemptions for those who have a physical or mental disability which restricts their ability to learn English and/or communicate and/or take the LIUK test.  In addition, certain categories of applicant (including work permit holders and PBS dependants) will be able to apply for further periods of limited leave to enable them to meet the new KoLL requirements.

There will be a separate concession for applicants who have been in the UK for 15 years with limited leave to remain as a partner, child or, or as a dependant of HM forces personnel, or as a dependant of a PBS migrant or work permit holder.  This will enable them to apply for settlement on the basis of an English language speaking and listening qualification at A2 and without passing the LIUK test.  They will, however, need to produce evidence from a suitably qualified person that it is not reasonable to expect them to reach B1 English.

It also appears that Tier 1 (Investor) visa holders will also be required to meet these requirements, even though they are exempt from English language requirements at the leave to enter and leave to remain stages. 

What are the changes to the requirements for naturalisation?

The KoLL requirement for naturalisation as a British citizen will be the same as that for settlement and the same English language qualifications will be accepted (N.B. for nationals of majority English speaking countries the Republic of Ireland will be added for naturalisation).

Migrants who fulfil the LIUK requirements for settlement as they apply on or after 28th October 2013 will not be required to retake any elements in a later application for naturalisation and will be deemed to automatically satisfy KoLL at that later stage.

However, the situation is different for those who applied for settlement before 28th October 2013, as they will have satisfied the KoLL requirement by either having passed the LIUK test or by taking an ESOL qualification (probably below B1 level) and this in itself will not be sufficient should they later apply for naturalisation.  They will therefore need to satisfy the new KoLL requirement, although if they have already taken the LIUK test they will not be required to re-take it.  For some however, it will mean having to pass a relevant speaking and listening qualification for the first time, whereas others may need to take a speaking and listening test at a higher level than that which they used for leave to enter or remain.

We hope this has been a useful summary of the latest changes to settlement and naturalisation applications.  For specific enquiries regarding these types of application, please contact us via email or call 0207 001 2121 to speak with one of our advisers.

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