Virginia, US

On 3 November 2016 the Home Office confirmed the introduction of a new A2 English language requirement for non-EEA national partners and parents applying for further leave to remain under the family immigration route.This route is for those seeking to enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family life with a person who is a British Citizen, is settled in the UK, or is in the UK with limited leave as a refugee or person granted humanitarian protection.

This change is in line with the government’s commitment to encourage successful integration into British society, and ensure that those who come to the UK on the family route with only basic English become more fluent over time so they can fulfil their potential.

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for languages is graded from A1 (the lowest, basic level) to C2 (native fluency). At A2 level, a person can go beyond a simple factual conversation to express simple opinions. They can understand the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements. They can interact in short conversations on familiar topics provided the other person helps if necessary.

The new requirement at level A2 for applicants extending their stay in the UK as a partner or parent after completing 30 months in the UK on a 5-year route to settlement will take effect from 01 May 2017.  However, applications to extend leave expiring before 01 May 2017 will be decided in accordance with the Immigration Rules in force on 30 April 2017

Current Requirements

Currently, spousal visa holders must:

• prove their knowledge of the English language at A1 Level only in their initial visa application; and
• take a more advanced English language test when they apply for permanent residence after five years in the United Kingdom. 

Under the new policy, spousal visa holders will need to additionally demonstrate intermediate level English language competence at A2 Level after two and half years in the United Kingdom or may be required to leave if their visa extension application is refused.

How to meet the Level A2 test requirement

The applicant must either:

• be a national of a majority English-speaking country; or

• pass a speaking and listening test with an approved provider at an approved English Language test centre; or

• have obtained a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD awarded by an educational establishment in the UK; or

• if awarded by an educational establishment outside the UK, the degree must be accompanied by a UK NARIC (the national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills) Certificate confirming that the degree meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK, and that the degree was taught or researched in English to level A2 or above.

A NARIC Certificate is required for ALL overseas degrees regardless of whether the degree is from a majority English Speaking country. In these instances, NARIC will just be confirming equivalency, rather than "taught or researched in English".

Any exemptions?

An applicant will be exempt from the new A2 requirement if at the date of application:

•  they are aged 65 or over;

•  they have a disability which prevents them from meeting the requirement; or

•  there are exceptional circumstances which prevent them from being able to meet the requirement.