Note that since this article was published, immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information. Also, as of 6 April 2017, UK NARIC statements can be used to evidence English levels A1, A2, B1, and B2, in addition to C1.
Just six per cent of the global population speak English as a first language, but it is regarded as the language of science, technology and business. It is also an integral part of the points based system for immigration to the UK. Migrants need to demonstrate that they can speak and understand English and an increasing number are doing this by using UK NARIC’s English Language Assessment.*
English Language and the PBS*
Since 2008 the UK has managed migration through a points based system comprising five tiers. Tiers 1, 2 and 4 all have an English language requirement.
Tier 1 Requirements*
Three of the four routes in this tier require a proficiency in English.
There are no English language requirements for initial entry. If a migrant who has already been admitted through this channel wishes to extend their stay they will need to demonstrate that they have the necessary proficiency. This can be done by using the ways shown below, but they will needs to achieve at least level B1 on CEFR if they use an approved English language test.
English language does place a part in the initial entry of a migrant through this channel. Again they can use any of the ways set out below, but they will need to achieve at least C1 on CEFR if they use an approved English language test.
Under this channel migrants need to score at least 75 points for attributes. Under the current rules migrants satisfy the English language requirements if they achieve these 75 points.
There are no requirements for Tier 1 (Investor).
Tier 2 Requirements*
All the open routes under Tier 2 have English language requirements. The Sportsman and Intra-company Transfer channels have a CEFR A1 competency; the General channel is B1 while the Minister of Religion channel has a level of B2.
Even if migrants score the required 50 from the attributes under Tier 2, applications will be refused unless they can demonstrate the necessary level of competency in English. (See our previous blog on Tier 2 for more information applying through this route.)
Tier 4 Requirements*
Although there are no points awarded through Tier 4 for English language proficiency, it is the responsibility of the sponsoring institution to ensure that the migrant meets the following requirements:
- A Tier 4 (General) student with a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies assigned after 21 April 2011 can be enrolling on a Bachelor (QCF level 6 or equivalent level) course when they can demonstrate that they are competent to at least level B2 on CEFR.
- If the migrant wishes to study for a qualification higher than GCSE, but lower than Bachelor level (QCF 3 – 5 or equivalent level) then they will need to demonstrate that they are competent to at least level B1 on CEFR.
If a migrant is applying to come to the UK as a partner of a UK citizen or a person settled here then they will need to show that they can speak and understand English. The level they require is CEFR A1 and they can use any of the ways described below to demonstrate their ability. There are various exceptions and it is worth-while checking the UK BA website to fully aware of the requirements.
How to Demonstrate English Proficiency*
There are three routes available to a migrant for them to demonstrate their proficiency in English:
- They are a national of a majority English speaking country, or*
- They have passed an English language test, at or above the level for the PBS tier in which they are applying, which has been approved by the UK Border Agency, or*
- They hold a degree that was:
- taught in English, and
- is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above.*
Majority English Speaking Countries*
If the migrant comes from a majority English Language Speaking country they automatically meet the English language requirements. Please check the Home Office website for an up-to-date list of the countries.*
Migrants can prove they are from one of these countries by submitting either their current, original passport or travel document.
English Language Tests*
The Home Office have identified English language tests that satisfy their requirements and have been mapped to the CEFR scale. These are listed on the Home Office website.*
Bachelor Level Qualifications*
For Tiers 1 and 2 the final way of demonstrating proficiency in English is having studied a Bachelor level qualification where the medium of instruction is English. There are two stages to this process; the Home Office check that the qualifications are equivalent to Bachelor level and then seek confirmation that the medium of instruction was English. If this is the case then the individual is deemed to have a proficiency of C1 on CEFR. The best way to this is to get an English Language Assessment from UK NARIC.*
Please ensure that you check with the Home Office website to ensure that you are using the most up-to-date information.
Tim Buttress, January 2012
*Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.