UKBA VIRTUALLY FORCING SPOUSES/PARTNERS TO ACHIEVE HIGHER ENGLISH PROFICIENCY THAN REQUIRED BY LAW

By Manpreet Singh and Sindur Jha, London 15 March 2011.

Since the 29th November 2010 in order to gain entry to, or remain in, the UK following individuals have to prove that their English is of a basic level.

Persons who are in a relationship with a British citizen or permanent resident and apply as a husband, wife, civil partner, Fiancé(e), proposed civil partner, unmarried partner or same sex partner.

If they are not a national of a majority English speaking country they need to show a basic level of English ability in speaking and listening at level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). At this level you should understand simple everyday expressions and very basic phrases. You can meet this requirement by passing an acceptable English language test with an approved test provider.

However, the problem with this is, from our research, 13 out of 24 approved English tests do not have A1 equivalency specified by the UKBA.

This is unfair to those 13 test providers as the uptake of their tests will be less as nobody would want to be forced to achieve a higher proficiency than required by the law if there are alternative providers.

Moreover test takers would also not like to take a chance with their results because these tests cost a lot of money especially for people living in developing countries with lower buying power. Theoretically they may achieve A1 equivalence or more but that still may not satisfy UKBA criteria as their minimum specified band or score for that test may be more. So they may need to take the test again. In developing countries the test that is easily accessible may not have an A1 equivalency specified forcing the applicant not only to undertake that test but also achieve a higher English proficiency than required by law which seems to be unfair.

For example IELTS, which is the world’s proven English test, has no A1 equivalency specified by UKBA. Over 1.4 million candidates take the test each year. Despite repeated request to the UKBA by Immigration Angels Limited to specify A1 equivalency they have failed to do so. There is a chance that this test might have already been taken by a number of spouses/partners who are applying for UK visa or leave to remain. Those who have taken this test in the past may have already achieved a band of 1 or 2 which is equivalent to A1 as per IELTS guidance but UKBA only specifies B1 (band 4) equivalency or above for this test.

It is high time that UKBA specifies A1 equivalency for all the approved English language tests to create a level playing field for test providers and be fair to test takers.

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