Appendix FM Visa Rules: English Language Requirement

Appendix FM Visa Rules: English Language Requirement

Since 29 November 2010, there has been an English language requirement that must be met by those wishing to apply for a UK Partner Visa under Appendix FM.

The English language requirement was introduced to promote integration and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

Who needs to meet the English language requirement?

Under Appendix FM, the English language requirement applies to anyone who is making a visa application as the spouse, fiancé(e), unmarried partner, same sex partner or proposed civil partner of a person present and settled in the UK.

Visa TypeEnglish Language Level
Spouse Visa (or Civil Partner)CEFR level A1
Fiancé(e) Visa (or Proposed Civil Partner)CEFR level A1
FLR M Visa (Spouse Extension)CEFR level A2
Unmarried Partner Visa (Inside UK)CEFR level A2
Unmarried Partner Visa (Outside UK)CEFR level A1

Applicants will have to meet the English language requirement at CEFR level A1 for leave to remain applications where they were previously exempt from the English language requirement but this exemption no longer applies.

If the applicant is still exempt then they will not have to pass the test.

The English language requirement will only apply to the main applicant and not to their dependants.

The applicant can sit a higher level test than what is required in order to meet the English language requirement.

How to meet the English Language requirement

The English language requirement can be met in any of the following ways:

  1. by having passed an approved English language speaking and listening test at or above the required CEFR level, with an approved provider as set out in Appendix O to the Immigration Rules
  2. by being a national of a specified majority English speaking country
  3. by having obtained an academic qualification at degree level or above  taught in English

The applicant will be exempt from the English language requirement if:

  1. they are aged 65 or over at the date of application; or
  2. they have a physical or mental condition that would prevent them from meeting the requirement; or
  3. there are exceptional compassionate circumstances that prevents them from meeting the requirement

If the applicant cannot show how they meet the English language requirement or how they are exempt from it then their application for a UK Partner Visa will be rejected.

English language test: approved test providers

Since 6 April 2015, the Trinity College London and the IELTS SELT Consortium have been the approved English language test (SELT) services providers for UK immigration purposes.

The two approved level A1 tests from 6 April 2015 for partner test candidates are:

  1. Trinity College London – Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)(available in the UK)
  2. IELTS SELT Consortium – IELTS Life Skills (available in the UK and overseas)

From 3 November 2016 there are three approved level A2 tests for partner test candidates:

  1. Trinity College London – Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)(available in the UK)
  2. IELTS SELT Consortium – IELTS Life Skills (available in the UK)
  3. Integrated Skills in English offered by Trinity College London (available in the UK)

The applicant will be required to provide their SELT unique reference number (URN) on the application form.

The URN for Trinity College London tests should look like this:

TCL/123456/123456/123456789 (first three letters are the SELT provider’s code, date of test, test centre number, candidate number).

The URN for IELTS SELT Consortium tests should look like this:

IEL/123456/XXXXX/123456 (first three letters are the SELT provider’s code, date of test, test centre code, candidate number).

The Home Office will use the URN to verify the test result on the provider’s online verification system.

Soon after applicants pass the test, they will be awarded an English language certificate. This should be kept in a safe place as it will needed to be sent as part of the application.

If the applicant wants to take a test at a higher level then these are also available from the same providers.

In order to meet the English language requirement, the test must be taken at an approved test centre. Appendix O lists Home Office approved test centres and providers.

The Applicant can have as many attempts as they need to in order to pass a test at the required CEFR level as long as they are able to provide the required evidence when they apply.

National of a majority English speaking country

The Home Office has compiled a list of what they regard as majority English speaking countries.

If the applicant is a national of any of these countries then they will not have to sit an English language test and are deemed to meet the English language requirement.

If the applicant has dual nationalities they can rely on either of their nationalities.

The following countries are deemed to be majority English speaking countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda;
  • Australia;
  • the Bahamas;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • Canada;
  • Dominica;
  • Grenada;
  • Guyana;
  • Jamaica;
  • New Zealand;
  • St Kitts and Nevis;
  • St Lucia;
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Trinidad and Tobago;
  • United States of America.

In order to show that the applicant is a citizen or national of a majority English speaking country a passport or travel document should be included in the visa application.

If the applicant is not able to provide this, for example it has been lost or stolen or it has expired, then this must be clearly stated in the application form and the following can be provided as alternative proof of nationality:

  1. a current national identity document; or
  2. a letter from the applicant’s national government, Embassy or High Commission confirming the applicant’s full name, date of birth and nationality.

Academic qualifications taught in English

The applicant will meet the English language requirement if they have a degree (Bachelors or Masters) or a PHD.

If the applicants degree is from the UK then this will meet the English Language requirement for your visa application.

The applicant must provide an academic qualification certificate that clearly states:

  1. the applicant’s name
  2. the title of the award
  3. the date of the award
  4. the name of the awarding institution

If the applicant no longer has their degree certificate and has no way of getting a new one or if the applicant is still awaiting graduation then they can submit the following evidence instead:

  1. An academic reference from the institution awarding the qualification; or
  2. An academic transcript from that institution.

If the applicant submits an academic reference then this must:

  • be on official letter headed paper
  • show the applicant’s full name
  • show the title of the award
  • show that the academic qualification has been or will be awarded
  • show either the date that the certificate will be issued or confirmation that the institution is unable to re-issue the original degree certificate.

If the applicant submits an academic transcript then this must:  

  • be on the official letter headed paper
  • show the applicant’s name
  • show the name of the academic institution
  • show the course title
  • show either the date that the certificate will be issued or confirmation that the institution is unable to re-issue the original degree certificate.

If the applicants degree is from another country then the degree certificates will need to be submitted along with confirmation from the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the UK (UK NARIC) that:

  • The degree was taught or researched at CEFR Level A1 or A2; and
  • The qualification is the equivalent or greater than the recognised standard of a Bachelors/Masters degree or PhD in the UK;

It will be assumed that the qualification was taught or researched in English at or above the required CEFR level if the qualification was taken in one of the following countries:

Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, the USA.

Canada is not included in this list.

Exemption for those aged 65 or over

If the applicant is 65 years old or over when they make their visa application then they will be exempt from the English language requirement. A passport or travel document will be accepted as evidence of age.

Disability exemption

If the applicant has a physical or mental condition/disability which prevents them from meeting the English language requirement then they will be exempt from this requirement.

This only applies if the physical or mental condition the applicant has prevents them from taking the English language test or from learning English.

Some people with physical or mental conditions may still be capable of taking the English test and learning English.

The applicant will need to submit medical evidence from a Doctor or other medical practitioner which clearly states the physical or mental conditions the applicant has and why, because of their condition, the applicant is not capable of learning English or taking the English language test.

Exceptional circumstances exemption

If there are exceptional circumstances that prevent the applicant from meeting the English language requirement then they will be exempt from this requirement.

The exceptional circumstances must specifically relate to the applicant’s ability to meet the English language requirement.

The applicant will need to meet the English language requirement (CEFR A1 level) when they apply for further leave to remain, unless they remain exempt.

The applicant will have to show in their visa application that they were unable to learn English before coming to the UK because of exceptional circumstances.

Examples of exceptional circumstances, might include where the applicant:

  1. is a long-term resident of a country in international or internal armed conflict, or where there is or has been a humanitarian disaster
  2. is a long-term resident of a country with no approved A1 test provision and it is not practicable or reasonable for the applicant to travel to another country to take such a test
  3. has been hospitalised for several months immediately prior to the date of application
  4. is the full-time carer of a disabled child also applying to come to the UK