Currently, language skills have become a requirement for the majority of immigration routes. The policy justification for these recent legal changes is that persons who can speak English are better able to integrate into society, as they can easier make meaningful connections with the local community.
It is no surprise that alongside passing the Life in the UK test, you need to have sufficient knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic to apply for British citizenship.
The requirement for those naturalising to be able to speak English (or Welsh or Scots Gaelic) is a long-standing provision that illustrates a policy tendency of harmonisation to an idea of a British way of life. The British Nationality Act 1981 formalised the method of evidencing your language skills, setting out strict criteria to be met.
This blog post will conclude the series on Naturalisation by examining how you can meet the language requirement.
The English Language test:
In most cases, you can prove your language skills by having an English qualification at the B1 level or higher (such as CEFR B2). To obtain such a qualification, you have to pass a secure English language test (SELT). The SELT providers approved by the Home Office are:
- The IELTS exam with its ‘IELTS for UKVI’ or ‘IELTS for UKVI Academic’ variants.
- LanguageCert Test of English under ‘International ESOL SELT’.
- Pearson SELT Test under ‘PTE Academic UKVI’ or ‘PTE Home’
- Trinity B2 Exam (of Trinity College London) with the ‘Secure English Language Tests for UKVI’ – Integrated Skills in English (ISE) or Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)
If you are outside the UK, you can alternatively take the ‘Skills for English UKVI’ test from PSI Services (UK) Ltd.
The test format differs depending on the provider, but the key abilities assessed are your speaking, listening, reading, and writing. It is for you to decide which test to choose, depending on your preferences, location, and availability. If you need assistance in booking a test, our legal advisers are ready to help you to select the best option for your individual circumstances.
A common mistake people make in their nationality application is to evidence their understanding of English by using one of their previous qualifications, such as GCSEs, A levels, or National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). However, these tests are not on the list of approved tests for immigration purposes and will not be accepted as evidence by the Home Office. So, you must take one of the tests on the list specified above to meet this requirement.
You should be able to take the test within 28 days of booking, but this may depend on your location. On the day of the test, you will need to prove your identity. You can use the following documents as identification for the test: a valid passport, UK Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), UK Biometric Residence card (BRC), convention travel document, or your identity card if you are an EEA national.
After passing the English test, you can access your test results and scores online.
You will be given a SELT unique reference number which you must use when making your application. You can find the SELT unique reference number under different abbreviations, depending on your provider:
- ‘UER’ for Trinity College London tests
- ‘UKVI number’ for IELTS SELT Consortium tests
- ‘Candidate URN’ for LanguageCert tests
- ‘SELT URN’ for Pearson tests
- ‘URN’ for PSI Skills for English tests
You do not need to submit your language certificate in your application, as the test results and scores are checked using the SELT online verification system.
Importantly, the test results are only valid for two years from the date the test was taken. Once the validity of your test expires, you cannot rely upon the qualification to support your naturalisation application.
Please note, however, that you do not have to pass another English test if you have already met the language requirement based on a B1 level qualification as part of your Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application.
Alternative ways to meet the language requirement:
You are not required to take an English Language test if you have a UK degree at a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. level, which was taught or researched in English. A graduate or postgraduate diploma from a UK university is also accepted. In this case, you will need to provide your degree certificate as evidence in your application.
If you have completed your degree but are waiting for graduation, you can use instead an official transcript with your name, the name of the institution, your degree, and confirmation of the award.
You can also use an academic degree that was taught or researched in a majority English-speaking country. Yet, your degree certificate must be accompanied by an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) from Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification.
If you have a degree that was though in English but is from a non-majority English-speaking country, you will also need to provide an English Language Proficiency Statement (ELPS) from Ecctis showing that your degree was taught in English.
What is more, if you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, you are considered automatically to meet the English language component. The following countries are recognised as majority English-speaking for naturalisation purposes: Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Malta, Barbados, Belize, St Kitts, and Nevis, St Lucia, Dominica, St Vincent, and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, as well as New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Canada, and the United States.
Even though you do not have to take an English test, you will still need to pass the Life in the UK test to demonstrate your knowledge of life in the UK.
If you are under the age of 18 or aged over 65 years old, you are exempt from meeting the knowledge of language requirement altogether.
You may also be exempt from taking an English language test if you have a long-term physical or mental condition. Please note though that your physical or mental illness will not automatically be considered an exemption by the Home Office. You have to provide details on your application of how your physical or mental impairment prevents you permanently from learning English. This must also be evidenced by a Waiver request form completed by your doctor or another registered medical practitioner to confirm your disability. Temporary illnesses such as stress, anxiety, or depression would not normally be accepted as grounds for exemption. Likewise, you will not be exempted on grounds of illiteracy or long residence.
In this series of blog posts, we have examined in detail the complex road to Naturalisation. We have analysed every step of your application for British citizenship, proposing different alternatives to meet each of the strict requirements. Nonetheless, we appreciate how stressful and confusing could be to navigate through the application process alone, especially considering that UK immigration rules and guidance are constantly changing. Our legal advisers will be happy to provide you with tailored immigration advice to give you the best chance of success in your naturalisation application. If you have any questions or queries relating to the requirements for British citizenship, please do not hesitate to contact us.