At some point from October 2016, in light of announcements made last week by the Government, non-EEA national partners and parents on the family route will be required to pass a speaking and listening test at level A2 in order to qualify, after two and half years in the UK, for further leave to remain on the 5year partner or parent route to settlement.
The point to these new requirements according to the Government is, “to ensure that those coming to the UK on a family visa with only basic English will become fluent over time. It will mean that the person can better engage in everyday conversation and thereby better participate and integrate in everyday life in the community”. The implementation of the new requirements will therefore see an amendment to the already seeming indeciferable structure of Appendix FM. However the question remains whether these amendments are really necessary or simply another obstacle being put before those who are already here legitimately so as to either delay or hinder them in permanently settling in the UK? What exactly is the problem with the current measures in place which are clear that unless certain exemptions or exceptions apply, foreign spouses are required to pass a higher level English test and the Life in the UK Test before being granted settlement following completion of the required 5years? As for eligibility in relation to citizenship, similar rules are applicable in relation to the need to meet the English language requirements and as such, the current stance of the Government gives an unfair appearance of seeking forcible removals half-way through the 5year residence with a real risk of potentially separating families.
On 18 January 2016, The Guardian reported, “When asked whether a Muslim woman who had come to the UK on a spousal visa and had children without learning the language herself could be denied leave to remain, the prime minister said there would be no guarantee that those who did not improve their English could stay”. There is no guarantee as such even currently without the changes, that a spouse will be able to pass the requisite higher level English test or the life in the UK test in order to obtain settlement under the 5year route but then again the timing of introduction of the new English test clearly has regard to the fact that Appendix FM only coming into effect in July 2012, no one as yet is due to apply for settlement under these new Rules until after 9 July 2017.
Surely, however, if an affected spouse no longer fulfills the requirements leading to the 5year route to settlement for failure to met the requisite English test, Article 8 human rights considerations, exceptional circumstances etc will catch them where they get knocked down to the 10year route to settlement, more so where the parties have children?
Those already in the UK who will be affected by the new changes can now no longer consider that they have the “luxury” of nearly 5years before they are required to undergo further English testing from initial entry.
By seeking to introduce the new layer of English testing from October 2016, the Government has ensured that, depending upon the exact date of grant of the initial two and half years following the introduction of the new rules, that in future very few foreign spouses will be able to ” escape” taking the new test when applying for leave to remain.