June 9th, 2010
09:30 AM ET

U.K. introduces English test for immigrants

All non-European immigrants to the United Kingdom must pass a basic English language test before being granted a visa under new rules announced by the government Wednesday.

The rules will apply to anyone wanting to join their spouse or partner in the United Kingdom, and they will come into effect in autumn this year, the government said.

"I believe being able to speak English should be a prerequisite for anyone who wants to settle here," Home Secretary Theresa May said. She said the new requirement will "help promote integration, remove cultural barriers, and protect public services."

Anyone wishing to come to the United Kingdom as a partner must demonstrate a basic command of conversational English by proving they have passed the test at an approved testing center, the Home Office said.

"It is a privilege to come to the U.K., and that is why I am committed to raising the bar for migrants and ensuring that those who benefit from being in Britain contribute to our society," May said in a statement.

She said the change is just a first step, and that the government is hoping to tighten the English-language requirements even further.

"Today's announcement is one of a wide range of measures the new government is taking to ensure that immigration is properly controlled for the benefit of the U.K., alongside a limit on work visas and an effective system for regulating the students who come here," May said.

Under current rules, people applying for visas to join their partners must first meet a range of criteria, including showing that their marriage or partnership is genuine, and that they can support themselves financially.

They must first apply for a two-year settlement visa. After that, they can apply for permission to settle in Britain - known as indefinite leave to remain, which is similar to a U.S. green card - but they must first take a test on British culture, politics, and laws.

The new English test will be in addition to that test, the Home Office said.

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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. ;D

    Great thinking, UK! It'd be great to throw some of that in for the US, but since we have entire states that can barely speak it, maybe we'd finally make some room for people who can do more than clean hotels and spend weeks on end learning how to ask if we need more towels for our room.

    June 9, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Uncle Sam

    It's about time. Now lets hope the US can get on board with this...

    June 9, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. jh

    could we have one in america – for everyone – on there/their/they're it's/its your/you're?

    June 9, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    I'm all for it but OBAMA need the illegals so he can legalize them right before election and he'll be elected on the backs of illegals. Very sad for the hardworking Americans who pay their own way.

    June 9, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    Why can't the United States make English the official language? The UK actually cares about its culture and history. Its about time the US do the same.

    June 9, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. Susan

    I respect immigrants because most of them work hard to support themselves, in spite of the fact that their wages are low and they don't have much education. It's the lazy people on welfare that infuriate me. However, I am concerned at the number people who can't speak English around the area where I live, and I don't like being told to press one for English when I call the cable company.

    June 9, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericanD

      No offense, Susan, but where do you get that "most of them work hard"? I think your exposure to them my be limited by simply seeing the ones that work, and not seeing the line at the Department of Social Services.

      June 9, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. iee

    As usual the educated ones here = zero. There is a big difference between USA and UK. USA was founded by immigrants and thrived through it and each immigrant came here with their own dialect and culture. Please , the average American cannot speaks good command of English. Yes go do that test in UK and most would fail it anyway. Maybe all Mexicans should leave and we will see how many will go back to doing the – can- I- get -you -an extra towel for your room

    June 9, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      iee–You appear to be the only uneducated one on this blog. America was founded by English men/women who wanted freedom from a state run religion. The immigrants from non-English speaking countries came later, and they learned English when they got here! Many people immigrate hear today from China and Vietnam and they, too, learn at least enough English to function in society. We have been catering to the illiegals from Mexico for too long. They need to come here legally and learn to speak English.

      June 9, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericanD

      You proved your point quite well.

      June 9, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericanD

      Jennifer, I think you hurt our cause more than helping it. "Many people immigrate ____ today from China and Vietnam..." 😉

      June 9, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • dean

      Seems those coming from China and Vietnam are entering legally and that is the difference. Make entering the U.S. legally only for those millions from south of the border and the language issue will resolve itself. Immigrants from Mexico and other central and South American countries feel because there is a huge latino population in the U.S. that they are exemt from the rules of the land.

      June 9, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      AmericanD–oops. I'm usually much better at checking for mistakes. Does it help that I'm sleep deprived from a teething infant right now! 🙂

      June 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      stop fah-qin crying. close that leaky minge box of yours.

      June 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dthurbin

    does this mean that the uk hopes to implement a double standard for non europeans while non english speaking europeans are welcome? sounds a bit like issues under echr articles 8 and14 ito me.

    June 9, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. TammyB

    I don't think this is a bad thing. Wish we did that here in America. More importantly, I wish the government would just declare English as our National language. Then there would be no questions about it. Except that we cannot do that here in America, because we have to be so PC about everything, and not step on anyone's feelings.

    June 9, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
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    September 23, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |