UK Spouse Visa English Test Requirements 2024


The UK spouse visa English test requirements in 2024 are as follows:

  • The English test that you rely on must be a ‘Secure English Language Test’ (SELT)
  • The UK spouse visa English test must satisfy the minimum level
  • The UK spouse visa English test must be taken at a Home Office-approved test centre
  • The English language test must be valid
  • The applicant must pass the test in speaking and listening only
  • You must show that the English requirement was met on the date of application
  • You are required to submit the SELT unique reference number (URN)

Banner for spouse visa UK video

We will now discuss each of these in turn.

requirement 1

The English test that you rely on must be a ‘Secure English Language Test’ (SELT).

It is important to note that not any A1 or A2 test will suffice.

If you do not take what is known as a “Secure English Language Test”, then that English language certificate cannot be relied on to satisfy the English language requirement.

“Secure English Language Tests” were introduced since the Home Office discovered that there were previously a large number of English language test centres that were not sufficiently assessing applicants’ English language ability, but instead were selling the certificates (without properly testing applicants).

Secure English language tests are therefore tests that the Home Office have specifically approved for UK spouse and partner visas.

The list of Home Office approved Secure English language tests in 2024 is as follows:

  • “IELTS Life Skills” (Speaking & Listening) provided by IELTS SELT Consortium (A1, A2, B1)
  • “LanguageCert International ESOL SELT” (Speaking & Listening) (A1, A2, B1)
  • “Pearson PTE Home” (Speaking & Listening) (A1, A2, B1)
  • “Graded Examinations in Spoken English” (GESE) (Speaking & Listening) provided by Trinity College London (A1, A2, B1)
  • “IELTS for UKVI” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) provided by IELTS SELT Consortium (B1, B2, C1, C2)
  • “Integrated Skills in English” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) provided by Trinity College London (A2, B1, B2, C1, C2)
  • “Skills for English UKVI” (Speaking & Listening) by PSI Services
  • “LanguageCert International ESOL SELT” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) (B1, B2, C1, C2)
  • “Pearson PTE Academic UKVI” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) (A2, B1, B2, C1, C2)

requirement 2

The UK spouse visa English test must satisfy the minimum level.

First-time UK spouse visa applicants must pass an approved English test at a minimum level of A1 of the CEFR (which stands for the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages”).

Example #1

Dean, a Venezuelan national, has recently married Sarah, a British citizen, and is now preparing to make his first spouse visa application.

Dean will need to pass an A1 English test (or higher) to satisfy the English language requirement.

Applicants applying to extend their 33 or 30-month spouse visa must pass an approved English language test at a minimum level of A2.

Example #2

Dean has now lived in the UK with Sarah for nearly 30 months and is preparing to make his FLR(M) visa application (otherwise known as a “spouse visa extension”) to extend his stay before his current visa expires.

Dean will now need to pass an English test at a minimum level of A2 (at a Home Office approved test provider) to meet the English language requirement.

 

UK spouse visa full legal representation

requirement 3

The UK spouse visa English test must be taken at a Home Office approved test centre.

If the test is not taken at a Home Office-approved test centre, the test result cannot technically be included to satisfy the UK spouse visa English language requirement.

The list of approved test centres can be found on this page.

Requirement 4

The English language test must be valid.

The starting point is that the UK spouse visa English test results are valid for 2 years.

However, if the applicant has relied on the English test result on a previously successful UK visa application, they will normally be able to re-use that test result to satisfy the UK spouse visa application or extension.

“Should the applicant sit a higher level English test than required for the current application?”

If an applicant’s English language ability in speaking and listening is good enough, they may consider sitting a test at a higher level than what is required by the partner visa application that they are applying for.

Where an applicant is required to pass an A1 English language test, they can instead choose to sit an A2 or B1 English language test and then use that same English language test for later applications to extend their visa or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

This is because of paragraph 32D of Appendix FM-SE which sets out the rules which govern when applicants can reuse their English certificate test certificate. This states that the English language tests can be reused in subsequent applications in the following circumstances:

  • if the test is from a provider which is still approved but the test taken with the provider is no longer approved, or
  • if the test is from a provider which is not on the approved list anymore, or
  • if the test was taken in a test centre which is no longer approved, or
  • if the test is past its expiry date.

However, it is important to note:

  • The applicant can only reuse their English test certificate if they had ‘continuous leave’ since their last partner visa application; and
  • The applicant cannot reuse their English test certificate if the Home Office caseworker has doubts about the way the test was taken or obtained.

‘Continuous leave’ is when an applicant extends their partner visa before their current visa expires and has had no periods of illegal immigration status.

requirement 5

The applicant must pass the test in speaking and listening only.

Most English language tests assess speaking and listening only, but you should note that some Secure English language tests also assess reading and writing.

Tests that also (unnecessarily) assess reading and writing include:

  • “IELTS for UKVI” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) provided by IELTS SELT Consortium (B1, B2, C1, C2)
  • “LanguageCert International ESOL SELT” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) (B1, B2, C1, C2)
  • “Pearson PTE Academic UKVI” (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing) (A2, B1, B2, C1, C2)

Since the Home Office only requires an assessment of speaking and listening for UK spouse visas, we would not generally recommend relying on one of the above tests for the sole purpose of satisfying the spouse visa English language requirement. This is the case unless the applicant has another reason to sit one of the above tests (e.g., for employment in the UK).

“What if I sat an IELTS for UKVI General or Academic test and failed reading and writing?”

As long as you pass the speaking and listening parts of the test, this does not matter – as long as the test is a Home Office approved test.

Requirement 6

The English requirement should be met on the date of application.

The date of application is the date the application was submitted by paying the Home Office fees on the online application.

If applicants take the Secure English language test after submitting the application, it is likely (although not guaranteed) that the Home Office would still accept a test taken after the date of application.

We know this because most of our immigration advisors have worked for the Home Office – the UK government department that will process your application.

requirement 7

You are required to submit the SELT unique reference number (URN).

Applicants can evidence that they have passed the required English language test by:

  • Including the Secure English Language Test unique reference number (URN) on the online visa application; or
  • Providing a copy of their Secure English language test certificate which states this number.

Please note that, if an applicant takes the IELTS (General) or IELTS (Academic) test instead of the IELTS for UKVI (General) or IELTS for UKVI (Academic) tests, they will not be issued a URN and therefore that test does not satisfy the English language requirement.

“Where do we find the Unique Reference Number (URN)?”

For IELTS SELT Consortium tests, the URN is shown on the Test Report Form (TRF) as ‘UKVI number’.

For Pearson PTE tests, the URN is shown on the Score Report as ‘SELT URN’.

For LanguageCert tests, the URN is shown on the Test Report as ‘Candidate URN’.

For Trinity College London tests, the URN is shown on the certificate as ‘UER’.

For PSI UK Ltd tests, the URN is shown at the top of the test results report.

Spouse Visa UK DIY Application Pack

Frequently asked questions

Which applicants are exempt from the spouse visa English language requirement?

Some applicants will not have to take an English language test if one of the following exemptions apply:

#1 The physical or mental disability exemption.

An applicant may not have to take an English language test if the Home Office accept they have a physical or mental condition which means it would be unreasonable for them to have to sit a test.

However, please note that the Home Office uses its discretion when deciding whether this exemption applies – having any physical or mental condition does not automatically mean that the applicant is exempt.

“When might the Home Office use its discretion to grant an exemption?”

The Home Office may exercise discretion if:

  • The applicant has a mental condition, diagnosed by a medical professional, which means they cannot speak or learn English to the standard needed; or
  • The applicant has a long-term physical condition, diagnosed by a medical professional, which stops them from learning English.

Please note that an applicant must provide evidence from a medical professional if they are seeking to rely on this exemption.

“When will the Home Office exercise discretion?”

Home Office caseworkers will normally exempt the applicant from the English language requirement in certain, specific circumstances.

Essentially, the Home Office caseworker will consider how an applicant’s condition would stop the applicant from meeting the requirement.

In the following circumstances, the exemption will normally apply:

  • The applicant is deaf;
  • The applicant is mute; and/or
  • The applicant has a speech impediment which makes talking difficult.

Please note, however, that the Home Office considers each application on its own particular merits depending on the supporting documentation provided.


#2 The age exemption.

The applicant will automatically be exempt from the English language requirement if they are aged 65 years or over on the date that the application is submitted.

The only evidence needed for this exemption is an applicant’s passport confirming their date of birth.


What are the other ways to satisfy the English language requirement?

#1 If an applicant has an undergraduate degree level or above qualification which was taught in English

An applicant with an academic qualification that is undergraduate degree level or above that was taught in English at a UK university will satisfy the English language requirement.

The applicant will need to submit their degree certificate as supporting documentation.

If a qualification was awarded from outside the UK, it should satisfy the English language requirement if:

  • It is an academic qualification; and
  • Ecctis (formerly known as the UK National Academic Recognition Information Centre – NARIC) certifies the qualification as an equivalent of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD in the UK; and
  • It was taught in English or studied in a specific list of majority English-speaking country (not including Canada), or if it was taught in English but not in a majority English-speaking country, Ecctis (formerly NARIC) certifies the level of the course’s English meets the requirement.

However, it seems that most applicants who have an English-taught degree awarded outside the UK find it more straightforward to sit a Secure English Language Test instead of going through the UK Ecctis process.


#2 Majority English-speaking Nationals.

If an applicant is a national from one of the countries listed below, they will automatically satisfy the English language requirement.

The countries are:

  • 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; and
  • United States of America

The only evidence such an applicant will need to submit is their passport confirming they are a national of one of the above countries.

If an applicant is a dual national and one of their nationalities is included on the above list, they can use that nationality to meet the requirement.


Other UK Spouse Visa English Test Requirements FAQs

Are the English language requirements the same for married partners, civil partners, fiancé(e)s and unmarried partners?

Yes. The English language requirement is the same for partner visa applicants who are married, in a civil partnership, fiancé(e)s or are applying as unmarried partners. Please note, however, as discussed above, those who are extending their partner visa after 30 months are required to satisfy a minimum CEFR level of A2.

What do we have to submit to show that the UK spouse visa English test was passed?

You are only required to submit the SELT unique reference number (URN). Whilst you are not strictly required to submit the English language test certificate, this is something which we generally recommend (as it will often save the Home Office caseworker some time).

Do applicants who are applying under the 10-year partner or private life route have to sit an English test?

Applicants who are applying for an FLR(M) visa under the 10-year partner or private life route are not required to meet the English language requirement and are therefore not expected to sit an English language test. Please note that the majority of partners will not be applying under the 10-year partner route – this is only applicable where the standard spouse visa requirements are not met.

Do dependent children who are also applying at the same time also have to sit an English test?

No. Dependent children who are also applying at the same time do not have to sit an English language test.

Want help?

As OISC-regulated immigration advisors with many years of experience working in the Home Office, we are well placed to help our clients obtain their spouse and partner visas in the most time-efficient and least stressful way. This is especially the case as we specialise in UK spouse and partner visas.

Our full legal representation service involves us processing your application from start to finish. In addition to helping gather and ensure that the documents satisfy the Immigration Rules, we will also submit the online application, submit the supporting documentation, book the visa centre appointment, and write a legal covering letter.

This service is primarily offered by Ed Lowe (who worked in the heart of the Home Office for 20+ years). Ed works alongside Matthew French and Wendy Foy, both of whom also worked in the Home Office, to help our clients in the best way possible.

If, however, you would like to take full responsibility for your application but would like detailed & tailored written guidance (including document checklist(s) and letter templates, you may be interested in our £435 DIY Application Pack service.

Banner for spouse visa UK video

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button