All applicants for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK, and for naturalisation as British citizens, must satisfy requirements relating to their English language ability and their knowledge about Life in the UK. Note that these requirements differ to those applicable to visa or extension applications, so many applicants will need to sit new tests before they can settle in the UK permanently.
English language requirement
The minimum standard of English language ability required for a settlement or citizenship application is level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This can be shown in a number of different ways:
- Citizenship of a majority English speaking country – There is a list of countries compiled by UK Visas and Immigration, and nationals of those countries are automatically accepted as English speakers. There is no need for those individuals to undergo English language testing, and the only evidence they need is a passport from their home nation.
- Degree taught in English – Applicants who have attained a degree which was taught in English may also be accepted as meeting the English language level already. The simplest way to satisfy this requirement is to submit an original degree certificate from a UK university. However, overseas qualifications can be equally valid, although UK NARIC will need to assess the qualification to confirm that its level is sufficient and that it was taught in English as claimed.
- Pass an approved English language test – Any applicants who do not fit into one of the two options above can also sit an English language test specifically for the purpose of their immigration application. Caution is needed; UK Visas and Immigration has specific requirements about what tests are acceptable and who may provide them. Currently approved providers for UK tests are IELTS and Trinity London.
Knowledge of Life in the UK
Applicants for settlement and citizenship must demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK. This can only be demonstrated through successful completion of a Life in the UK Test, and the requirement is mandatory for all applicants regardless of their nationality or for how long they have lived in the UK.
The Life in the UK Test is a multiple choice exercise administered by UKVI-approved test providers. The test is electronic, with applicants needing to select the correct answers to a series of multiple choice questions presented on screen. Applicants are able to prepare for the test in advance by purchasing a book containing test questions and answers. The content of the test can be quite difficult to learn, and so we recommend that applicants do try some ‘dummy’ tests before then apply to sit the real thing.
In some cases, applicants can be exempted from meeting Life in the UK and English language requirements. This is where an applicant is aged under 18, is over 65, or there is a medical reason that the tests cannot be completed (for example, an incapacity to understand the testing process). Exemptions on medical grounds need to be clearly evidenced via the inclusion of documents from a registered medical practitioner.
As discussed above, applicants who later decide to apply for citizenship of the UK will again need to confirm how they have satisfied the English language and Life in the UK requirements. Often this is straightforward and simply requires confirmation of evidence relied upon in the previous application. Note that where certificates have been lost, it may be possible to rely on submission in a previous application without having to sit a new test.
If an applicant has settled in the UK without needing to meet of these requirements (for example, their settlement was many years ago and before these requirements were introduced), the application does need to satisfy both elements in a citizenship application, unless an exemption applies.