English language test for immigrant spouses comes under fire

The new rule is to be introduced soon


9th June 2010:
Even as the government made clear its intentions of making English Language test mandatory for immigrant spouses applying for UK Visas, welfare and other organisations standing for the rights of immigrants have criticized the new rule to be introduced soon.

Openly criticizing the move, Hina Majid of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said she supported the action of helping immigrants learn English, but she termed the new plan as discriminatory.

Quoting an example, Majid said for a young girl from a developing country, who meets the love of her life and wants to come over to UK to be with him, it will be very difficult. She added it may take the young girl several years to pass the test; and in that time they may not be able to live together in the UK.

Majid said the decision was unnecessary, costly and it would further tear migrant families apart.

As per the new rules, anyone from outside the Europe applying for a visa to join their spouse or partner will have to prove they have a basic command of English. This decision, the authorities claim, will help the migrants to get by in daily life, before their application is approved. The measure will also apply to the same-sex partners.

The measures, which Labour had planned, will apply to partners coming to the UK from areas outside the Europe, such as South Asia.

Official estimate suggest that the new language test will cut the number of applicants to some extent. They believe the cap will result in 10 percent fewer applications overall and it was likely to affect most the UK’s Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

The spousal visa allows someone to stay for two years, after which they can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Applicants must then pass a further test on life and language in the UK.

The Home Secretary Theresa May asserted that the move would help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services. She added that being able to speak English should be a precondition for anyone who wants to inhabit in UK.

May further plans to impose tighter English language requirements right across the visa system and has made it a clear goal of policy that those who benefit from being in Britain contribute to the society too.

At present, visa applicants have to show only that their wedding or partnership is real and that they can financially support themselves.

The Home Secretary added that it was a privilege to come to the UK. This was only the first step. They are currently reviewing English language requirements across the visa system with a view to tightening the rules further in the future.

As per the available figures in 2009, about 59,000 people from outside the Europe were granted a visa to live with their partners in the UK.

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