Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

English language compulsory for spouses


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

The new Government is making it a requirement that all spouses coming to the UK will need to know a minimum level of English.

That wasn’t in the coalition immigration policy document. I wonder what else they have up their sleeves that wasn’t trailed?

This is a major development, initially proposed by the previous Government in 2007 alongside the increase in the spouse visa age. In 2008 it was announced that this measure would be introduced but no timescale was given. I still have a long overdue Freedom of Information request on this, it suddenly occurs to me, in fact.

But what about elderly spouses (as in, where the couple have been married for a very long time and they are now both old)? Or spouses with learning difficulties? God knows what practical arrangements they will propose. How do they propose to verify this in an objective way? Will they start approving certain colleges in foreign countries? It isn’t exactly as if UKBA have made a great success of the Points Based System over here…

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Free Movement

Free Movement

The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


11 Responses

  1. …and what do people think about Art. 8 challenges? Could it be deemed discriminatory? Citizens of anglophone countries will have an obvious advantage over others. What public interest is being protected here? Is it proportionate to what is likely to be the permanent loss of family life rights in the UK for probably a large number of people?

  2. Does this mean that the people who are already into appeal process and the appeal is not determined before the new rules come into force will also have to pass this test?

  3. Another “sledge hammer to nut” piece of legislation of NuLabour I hoped the coalition would abolish.

    Expensive, problematic (per FMs examples), and of course avoidable for UK Nationals under EU Regs.

    I assume similar measures for other categories eventually eg. Long term partners, Access to children.

    What does this mean to the proposed English language test for Citizenship applicants? Are there going to be two tests eventually for spouses?

  4. it was in the tory manifesto wasn’t it……..i’m not surprised to see this.

  5. Imagine if the same rule were applied to UK nationals intended to settle with their spouses
    abroad? Surely non UK spouse can pick up english during the two year probationary period, following which they are required to take the ‘life in the UK’ test in english in order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.

  6. As Don says, where’s the public interest element here?

    The UK has argued that those who don’t speak English put a strain on public services.

    However this could also be applied to many EU nationals, most of whom pick up the lingo after arrival.

    If the government were really concerned about non English speakers, it would have tried to tackle the issue long ago with a well-publicised series of ESOL programmes on TV.

  7. My wife and I fell foul of this new rule in December 2010. Following absolutely incompetent advice from a supposed UK immigration specialist. I married my Russian fiancee in Russia, so her family could attend, in May 2010. On my return to UK I was made redundant so we held off the visa application until I found work. In September we instructed a UK firm to assist us with compiling the documents list and making the application (£1057). I had to chase this company every step of the way until at end of November they asked when my wife would like to attend the visa centre in Moscow. Due to a delay at Moscow customs the documents barely arrived in time for her appointment on 13th Dec. In fact my wife had to collect from DHL in Moscow on the morning of the 13th. I called the firm who had arranged appointment to ask if it was possible to re-arrange the appointment or advise the visa centre of the problem and that my wife could be late. One hour before the appointment this supposed specialist firm called me to advise the requirement for an English certificate but did not specify it must be issued by an approved centre. My wife had already considered this and had passed a test at B1 level so we were not particularly concerned. Of course the ECO refused my wifes visa because the English certificate was not issued by an approved centre. I truly believe as in some other comments the best place to learn English is in England and also that this rule is discriminating against my wife on the grounds of language. The European Charter of Fundamental rights states that nobody should be discriminated against on the grounds of language. It also states a right to marry and form a family as another fundamental right yet this new Immigration rule prevents me (a UK citizen since birth) from having a family life by refusing my wife entry clearance. We have always known that my wife would need to take further lessons when she can finally live with me. Of course raising the issue with my MP has resulted in no response whatsoever.