A1 English Test for UK Spouse Visas in 2024

What are the A1 English tests for UK spouse visas in 2024?

The following are the A1 English tests for UK spouse visas in 2024:

  • IELTS Life Skills – A1
  • LanguageCert International ESOL SELT (Speaking & Listening) – A1
  • Pearson PTE Home – A1
  • Skills for English UKVI – A1
  • GESE Grade 2 test by Trinity 

The above tests are from the list of Home Office approved Secure English language tests in 2024.

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Note

Whilst this article focuses on A1 Level tests for UK spouse visas, much of the same information also applies to partners who submit:


What is the recommended A1 English test for UK spouse visas in 2024?

We normally recommend the IELTS Life Skills – A1 test because:

  • Unlike other Secure English Language Tests (SELTs), there is only one version of the test offered (rather than two versions where only one of which satisfies the English language requirement);
  • There are a lot of preparation materials for the test which can be found online or in bookstores around the world; and
  • It usually has good availability worldwide, with test centres located in most countries.

What are the advantages of sitting an A2 level test for a UK spouse visa?

The A1 Level test is the minimum level required for the first UK spouse visa application.

But suppose an applicant feels comfortable taking the higher level A2 Level test for their first spouse visa application. In that case, they will have the advantage of using the same A2 test when they apply for the first spouse visa extension.

The spouse visa extension is typically submitted within the 28 day period prior to the first UK spouse visa expiring via the FLR(M) application form.

Example

Jacob, a Nigerian national, married Kate, a British citizen, in Nigeria and is now planning to apply for a UK spouse visa.

Jacob feels confident in taking an A2 Level test to meet the English language requirement.

If Jacob passes at A2 Level, he will be able to use the same test when he applies for his first spouse visa extension.

This also means he will save some money (by not taking two tests – one at A1 and then another at A2 Level).


What are the advantages of sitting a B1 level test for a UK spouse visa?

If an applicant feels confident in their English language ability, they can decide to take the B1 Level test when applying for their first UK spouse visa.

The advantage of doing this is that a B1 Level test can not only be used for the spouse visa extension, but also to meet the English language requirement for the Indefinite Leave to Remain application after five years residence in the UK (& British naturalisation application if they choose to apply for that).

Example

Marcos, a Brazilian national, has married Sam, a British citizen, in Brazil and is now preparing to make his first UK spouse visa application.

If he passes the B1 level test, Marcos should be able to use the same test for his spouse visa extension, the Indefinite Leave to Remain application after five years of residence with Sam in the UK and the British naturalisation application if he chooses to apply for that.


How much do the A1 English tests for UK spouse visas cost in 2024?

The A1 Level English test for UK spouse visas in 2024 costs around £150. This can vary due to the exchange rate used if the test is taken outside the UK.


Will we have to pay the A1 English test fee again if the applicant does not pass the first time?

Yes. A fee must usually be paid for every test taken.

Applicants can attempt the English language tests as often as they need to pass, but they will normally have to pay for each test attempt.

Applicants with numerous failed English language test attempts will be fine with satisfying the English language requirement – as long as they pass.


How do I book the A1 English test for UK spouse visas?

The tests can be booked via each test provider’s website.


How long are the A1 English tests valid for?

The tests are valid for two years.

If, however, the spouse visa extension applications and Indefinite Leave to Remain applications are submitted in time, the tests can typically be re-used despite the two years validity date passing.


Do we need to submit the A1 English language test certificate when we submit the spouse visa application?

Strictly speaking, no. An applicant can instead provide the SELT unique reference number (URN) on the online UK spouse visa application.

With this being said, it would be helpful to the Home Office caseworker if you submit a copy of the certificate.

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What other ways can an applicant satisfy the English language requirement?

Not all applicants will be required to sit a Secure English language test.

The other ways to satisfy the English language requirement are as follows:

#1 By being a national of a majority English-speaking country

If the applicant is a national of one of a specific list of majority English-speaking countries, they will automatically satisfy the English language requirement and will not have to pass any English language tests.

The countries are as follows:

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

If the applicant is a national of one of the above-listed countries, they will only need to provide their passport confirming their nationality to meet the English language requirement.


#2 By having an English-taught academic qualification

If an applicant has a Bachelor’s, Master’s degree or a PhD taught in English, they may be able to use this to satisfy the requirement instead of taking the A1 English language test.

If an applicant’s degree was taught in English at a recognised educational establishment (usually a university) in the UK, they could use their degree certificate to meet the English language requirement.

However, if an applicant’s degree was awarded outside the UK, they will need not only the degree certificate but also certification from Ecctis (formerly known as UK NARIC) to confirm the qualification meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK.

In addition, if the degree was not awarded by an educational establishment from the list of majority English-speaking countries (see below), you will also need official confirmation from Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) that the qualification was taught or researched in English at or above the required level (A1 for the first spouse visa application and A2 for the spouse visa extension).

The relevant list of majority English-speaking countries is:

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

If the applicant’s degree was awarded in one of the above countries, the Home Office would assume that it was taught or researched in English at or above the required CEFR level.

If the applicant’s degree was not awarded in one of the above countries, the applicant would also have to get certification from Ecctis that it was taught at the required standard of English.

Please note that Canada is not featured on the above list.

Therefore, if the applicant has an academic qualification taught in English in Canada, they will also need to obtain documentation from Ecctis that the qualification was taught or researched at the required standard of English.

Please also note that Ecctis charges for its certification services. More information is available on their website here.


#3 By being aged 65 or over

If an applicant is 65 or over at the date of application (when they submit and pay the Home Office application fee), they will automatically be exempt from taking a test.

This exemption applies in all cases, and a passport confirming an applicant’s date of birth will be sufficient to satisfy the English language requirement.


#4 By having a physical or mental condition

If an applicant has a physical or mental condition that prevents them from being able to sit an English test or learn English to the required level, they may not have to take a test.

Please note, however, that an applicant must provide evidence from a medical professional detailing how the physical or mental condition prevents them from sitting a test or learning English to the required level.

It is important to be aware this exemption is not automatic. Instead, the Home Office always looks closely at the evidence provided on a case-by-case basis before deciding whether an applicant qualifies for this exemption.


#5 By having ‘exceptional circumstances’

If ‘exceptional circumstances’ prevent an applicant from satisfying the English language requirement, they may be exempt from taking the English test.

It is essential to note the wording here – ‘exceptional‘ circumstances.

Please note that this is usually a very high bar for an applicant to reach. Circumstances like having difficulty travelling to a test centre, even if it’s in another country, for example, may not meet the threshold.

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Other A1 English test for spouse visas FAQs

Can applicants who are in the UK as a visitor sit an A1 English test in the UK?

Yes. Visitor visas will not prohibit the applicant from sitting the test in the UK.

What if there are no A1 tests in the applicant’s country of residence?

If there are no A1 tests available in the applicant’s country of residence, applicants will normally be expected to travel to another country to take the A1 level test. Whilst it would be open to you to argue that it is not ‘practicable’ or ‘reasonable’ to travel to another country (in which case you will not be required to sit an A1 level test), it should be noted that mere inconvenience alone normally doesn’t suffice.

How will we know if the applicant can pass the A1 English test?

There are many videos of Youtube which show examiners and test takers performing a mock A1 level exam. Watching these should give you a good idea regarding the level of speaking and listening required.

Do the A1 tests for spouse visas assess reading and writing?

No. The A1 English language tests only assess speaking and listening.


Want help?

If you would like us, an OISC-registered immigration firm that specialises in UK partner visas, to deal with your application from start to finish, you may be interested in our full legal representation service.

Our full legal representation service is offered by Ed Lowe, Matthew French & Wendy Foy – all of whom worked for the Home Office (the UK government department which will process your visa application) for many years.

On the other hand, if you want to prepare and submit your own application but would like detailed & tailored written guidance, you may be interested in our £435 DIY Application Pack service.

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