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Don’t introduce the English test for spouses of UK citizens

Comment 7th July 2010

The Government plans to introduce an English test before a spouse of a UK citizen is allowed a visa to enter Britain. We already have a strict citizenship system that includes language proficiency.

We should not introduce this costly and ineffectual test – it is yet more red tape.

Why does this matter?

We already have a strict system
We already have a strict system for Brits who wish to live with their husband or wife in this country. Currently, spouses from outside the EU are allowed to come to Britain for up to two years. To be allowed to stay with their husband or wife beyond this time, they must have passed a rigorous citizenship test that includes an English language element. The additional language test that Government plans to introduce is of a lower standard than we have now.

Another infringement on our liberties
This plan represents another infringement on the liberties of UK citizens. The right to family life is a basic Human Right that is now to be denied to couples just because one of them doesn't speak English very well.

It won't help us identify sham marriages
The additional test adds nothing to the Home Office's ability to distinguish between genuine marriages and sham marriages for convenience since our current system rightly has many hoops and hurdles for couples to prove they are genuine. Language proficiency is irrelevant to this process – couples can and do communicate in languages other than English. It's far easier to learn a language once in residence – the current system recognises that and so is much fairer.

It doesn't address the true barrier to integration
The Government claims the additional language test is being introduced in order to improve the integration of migrant spouses into our society, but this measure doesn't address the problem. Entrenched cultural values are barriers to integration: whether the spouse speaks English well or not, should their new family in the UK wish to keep them from mixing outside their home or community, this will happen anyway.

It won't save money. It will cost tax-payers more
Nor would this test save any further strain on the public purse, since such spouses have no access to public funds anyway. In addition, the administration of this unnecessary test will be extra expense to the British tax-payer. It will also be yet another strain on couples who already have to shell out thousands of pounds in some instances just to win the right to live together.

It's discriminatory
The test irrefutably discriminates against people from non-English speaking countries. This Government wants to create a fairer society. Yet Brits married to an Australian will certainly have better odds of building a life together with their spouse than a Brit married to a Brazilian. And what about those who have no option of where to live? A British woman could never move to Iran to be with her husband, for example.


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