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New, improved English language requirements for immigration applications


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The joy of working in immigration law is writing a 4,000 word briefing on the English language requirement, only to see a new provider added to the list three days after it is published, before an entirely new English language section of the Immigration Rules is announced two weeks later in a document stretching to 514 pages. As a cherry on the cake, this Appendix English Language replaces the soon-to-be-defunct Appendix English Language that was introduced by the last statement of changes, published just six weeks ago.

The creatively named ‘Appendix English Language’ (in its second iteration) will take effect at 9am on 1 December 2020; any application made before this highly specific date will be treated under the old rules. Unlike Appendix English Language the First, which only applied to the Appendix Student route, the new Appendix will apply to all applications made under the following routes:

  • Appendix Student
  • Appendix Skilled Worker
  • Appendix Representatives of an Overseas Business
  • Appendix T2 Minister of Religion
  • Appendix T2 Sportsperson
  • Appendix UK Ancestry
  • Appendix Global Talent
  • Appendix Start-up
  • Appendix Innovator
  • Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker
  • Appendix Hong Kong British National (Overseas)
  • Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay

The existing rules continue to apply to anyone applying under a different route so if you are not applying in one of the above categories, or you are applying before 1 December 2020, you may disregard Appendix English Language the Second in much the same way that evolution has disregarded the human appendix. For everyone else, here is a brief overview of the new rules.


Applicants who are making a settlement application – but not entry clearance or leave to remain – are exempt from the English requirement if at the date of application they are aged 65 or over, under 18 or if they have a physical or mental disability which prevents them from meeting this requirement. Presumably, anyone seeking to rely on the latter provision will be expected to provide strong medical evidence.

[This section has been updated — we originally failed to make clear that these exemptions apply only to settlement. Ed.]

Met in a previous application

Immigration lawyers will be familiar with a number of provisions that treat an applicant as meeting the English language requirement if they have met it in a previous application, but they will be entirely unfamiliar with a provision of this nature that isn’t overgrown by the weeds of extremely specific conditions and a range of exclusions. It is a paragraph even George Orwell would approve of and I will quote it in full in recognition of its simplicity:

EL 3.1. An applicant will meet the English language requirement if they have already shown they met the requirement, at the level required for their current application, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.

Majority English country

As usual, applicants can meet the English language requirement by being a national of a designated English-language country. The usual list applies, only now with the new addition of Malta. The addition of Malta to the list will apply across all categories in the Immigration Rules, not just the categories listed above.

This is not particularly generous, of course: Maltese nationals are losing their free movement rights, under which there was also no English language requirement. Nor any other requirement for that matter, unlike the new rules they will have to meet in future.

Academic qualification

As before, applicants can meet this requirement by having a degree from:

The only changes are that Malta will now be on the list of designated English-majority countries, and that the ‘degree from a designated English-majority country’ category will now include degrees from Ireland, meaning that Ireland will be treated as an honorary English-majority country for these purposes, despite not being added to the list. As above, these changes are pervasive across all immigration categories, not just the ones to which this Appendix applies.

English language test

As before, though please note there are now five authorised providers.

GCSE or A Level English


The holy grail of rule changes. Up until now, you might have achieved an A* in English at A level but you were still expected to trek down to a dingy exam hall for a ten-minute test that proved to the world that you were able to chat about your hobbies in English and thus integrate into British society.

From December, applicants applying under Appendix Student, Appendix Skilled Worker, Appendix Start-up and Appendix Innovator can meet the requirement if they have one of the following qualifications in English (language or literature), as long as they were under 18 and at school at the time and the qualification was awarded by an Ofqual, SQA, Qualification Wales or CCEA awarding body:

  • GCSE
  • A level
  • Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5
  • Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher

Although Appendix English Language applies to a far wider range of routes, this provision only applies, for reasons known only unto God, to the four routes specified above. That said, the explanatory memo does encouragingly refer to this provision as applying to only these four routes “initially”.

It appears that whoever is in charge of keeping the naturalisation form AN up to date jumped the gun on these changes, as the form now asks, seemingly out of context, whether the applicant has previously met the English language requirement by submitting one of the above qualifications.

Additional provisions for students

Appendix Student applicants can alternatively meet the requirement if they are sponsored by a higher education provider with a track record of compliance that specifies on the Certificate of Acceptance for Studies that they have assessed the applicant’s English language ability to level B2 or above, and how they have assessed it.

Slightly more esoterically, if an applicant in this route sat an approved English language test and was exempted from a component of the test by the provider on disability grounds, and the sponsor has confirmed that they are satisfied with the applicant’s level of English, they will meet the English language requirement.

Finally, the requirement will also be met where an applicant is applying for a short-term programme of up to six months and the study programme is part of a degree-level or above programme in a US higher education institution and NARIC confirms that the overseas course of study will lead to an academic qualification that is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above.

Medical professional regulation for Skilled Workers

An applicant in the Skilled Worker route will meet the English language requirement if they are being sponsored to work as a dentist, doctor, nurse or midwife and they have been assessed by the relevant regulator as meeting the English language requirement for registration.

I think we can all agree that NHS psychiatrists and intensive care nurses have better things to do with their valuable time than prove to the Home Office that they can, in fact, speak English to a conversational level so it is good to see that this Tier 2 exemption has been carried over to the Skilled Worker route.

As advertised by the Home Office, many of these changes do represent a very welcome simplification of the requirements, in particular the widely-drafted provision that means applicants no longer have to prove they meet the English language requirement if they have already met it in a previous application. Other changes, like the provisions that allow applicants to rely on GCSEs and other secondary education awards, are common sense additions that we hope in the future to see applied across all immigration categories and — if the mysterious form AN update is any indication — citizenship applications.

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Alex Piletska

Alex Piletska

Alex Piletska is a solicitor at Turpin Miller LLP, an Oxford-based specialist immigration firm where she has worked since 2017. She undertakes a wide range of immigration work, including family migration, Points Based System applications, appeals and Judicial Review. Alex is a co-founder of Ukraine Advice Project UK and sits on the LexisPSL panel of experts and Q&A panel. You can follow her on Twitter at @alexinlaw.