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English language requirement for UK Spouse Visa

by Nathan Zachary

A key requirement that you must satisfy when applying for a UK Spouse visa is the English language requirement. You must prove that you can both speak and comprehend English to a specified level. A majority of UK Spouse visa applicants will prove their knowledge of the English language by undertaking an approved English language test. However, there are exceptions and exemptions to the English language test requirement based on factors such as your academic background, nationality, age and abilities.

What English language test is required for a UK Spouse visa?

You must undertake a secure English language test (‘SELT’) at an approved test centre, to prove your speaking and listening ability. The level, also referred to as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (‘CEFR’) level, at which you are required to pass the test will depend on the type of Spouse visa application you are making i.e. entry clearance, extension or indefinite leave to remain. Further, you must have sat and passed the English language test no more than two years prior to the date of your UK Spouse visa application.

A secure English language test is one that has been approved to meet the Home Office’s requirements. Depending on the level of English abilities that you are required to meet, you will choose to sit one of the following SELTs:

  • Pearson: ‘PTE Academic UKVI’ or ‘PTE Home’
  • PSI Services: ‘Skills for English UKVI’
  • Trinity College London: ‘Secure English Language Tests for UKVI’ – Integrated Skills in English (ISE) or Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)
  • IELTS SELT Consortium: ‘IELTS for UKVI’ or ‘IELTS Life Skills’
  • LanguageCert: ‘LanguageCert International ESOL SELT’

Inside of the UK, you can sit the English language test with one of the following approved test providers:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson
  • Trinity College London

If you are taking the English language test outside of the UK, you can use one of the following test providers:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson
  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd
Application typeEnglish language test required
Entry clearanceWhen making a UK Spouse visa entry clearance application, you are required to pass an approved English language test at the minimum of level A1 on the CEFR scale;  this is the most basic level.
ExtensionAfter 2.5 years on a UK Spouse visa, you will usually look to make an extension application and at this stage you are required to pass an approved English language test at level A2 on the CEFR scale.
Indefinite leave to remainWhen applying for indefinite leave to remain, after residing in the UK for 5 years on the UK Spouse visa route, you are required to pass an approved English language test at level B1 on the CEFR scale.

Text Box: For example, if you passed an English language test at level A2 on the CEFR scale when making your entry clearance application, you will not be required to sit an English language test for your UK Spouse visa extension application. This is because you would have previously shown your English language proficiency to the requisite level. However, your previous English language test certificate must still be valid and not have been withdrawn by the test provider on the date of your application.

The difficulty of the SELT will increase as you move through the UK Spouse visa application process, to reflect your integration into the UK. However, you are permitted to take a higher level of English language test at any given stage where you feel confident to do so.

After passing an approved English language test, you are given a SELT unique reference number. This number is required to complete your UK Spouse visa application and is evidence of your result. The Home Office will verify your result using the reference number.

What are the exceptions to the English language requirement for a UK Spouse visa application?

You are not required to undertake an English language test for a UK Spouse visa application where you can evidence your English language abilities via one of the following ways:

  1. You are a citizen of an eligible majority English-speaking country or territory including – Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British overseas territories, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad, and Tobago or the USA.
  2. You hold a recognized academic qualification that was mainly taught or researched in English – This can be a Bachelor’s/Master’s degree or Ph.D. that was awarded in the UK, or the equivalent that was awarded from outside of the UK but was mostly taught or researched in English. Where your qualification was awarded outside of the UK, you will be required to provide further documentary evidence in addition to your degree certificate.

Who is exempt from the UK Spouse visa English language requirement?  

You are exempt from sitting an English language test if one of the following applies to you:

  • You are aged 65 or over
  • You have a long-term physical or mental condition that restricts your ability to take a test
  • There are exceptional circumstances to prevent you from taking a test before you enter the UK

Our expert personal immigration lawyers at Kamran & Co Solicitors have great experience in making UK Spouse visa applications, having successfully obtained visas for countless of our valued clients. We can advise you on the Spouse visa requirements and assess whether you meet not only the English language requirement but also the stringent relationship and financial requirements. Our legal professionals are leading immigration specialists who are here to assist you with your UK visa application. Contact Kamran & Co Solicitors today to book a consultation regarding your immigration matter.

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