In a recent interview on BBC Radio 4, David Cameron outlined his plans to encourage integration into the UK by tightening up the rules that require a the non–European spouse of a British citizen to know basic English before arriving in the UK and passing further language tests to be granted further leave to remain.

This is a significant piece of social policy, which initially came into force in 2005 when English language proficiency was required only for those applying for British citizenship, this was extended in 2007 as a requirement for those seeking indefinite leave to remain.

In 2010 the pre-entry English test became a mandatory requirement on the basis that a knowledge of English would assist integration into British society and improve access to the employment market, and to raise awareness as to the importance of the English language.

Applicants must show they have progressed from the basic language requirement A1 to a higher level B1 before indefinite leave to remain is granted.

In the radio 4 interview Mr Cameron said that all those who entered the UK on the five-year spousal settlement programme would soon have to sit language tests halfway through that period. A new A2 test will be introduced in October 2016.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-a2-english-requirement-in-the-family-route

Failing the language test could lead to the non-European spouses right to stay in the UK being revoked and them being sent back to their country of origin.

At the end of 2015 The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the challenge brought against the rule of pre-entry English language testing for spouses seeking to enter the UK as the family members of British citizens and those present and settled in the UK. The formal title of the case is R (on the applications of Ali and Bibi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 68

The appellants are UK citizens who have been married to non–Europeans since 2009 and 2010 respectively. Their husbands are unable to satisfy the pre-entry language requirement, in Saiqa Bibi’s case because he would have to relocate to Rawalpindi in Pakistan for several months, which is not affordable, and in Mrs Ali’s case because there is no test centre in the Yemen where they have had to live.

They said that the rule, which is now part of Appendix FM breached their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, article 8 (the right to a family life), and that it was unlawfully discriminatory contrary to article 14 read with article 8 (discrimination). The challenge failed. because the Court found that the rule itself was lawful.

However, the Court also agreed that in a significant number of cases the rule would breach Convention rights and suggested the Secretary of State would likely need to redraft her guidance.

What is clear, is that with new rules coming into force where non-European spouses must take higher level language tests and where others face pre-entry language test difficulties a significant number of challenges maybe seen in the future.