BBC News reports today that:
"From October 2013, all those wishing to settle in the UK will have to pass an
English language course as well as the existing test on life in the UK.
And that has now been extended to cover applicants for citizenship.
English-speakers applying for citizenship have currently only to take the life-in-the-UK test, which is in English."
The Home Office argues that they are raising standards and providing a new restriction on achieving citizenship by requiring applicants pass a new English language test in addition to passing the "Life in the UK" citizenship test.
These claims are inaccurate -- and demonstrate little knowledge about the "Life in the UK" test.
The test is now in its third edition launched last month. All three editions are designed so that persons that pass the test must have English at a standard of ESOL Entry Level 3. This has always been the case.
The British government will require applicants for permanent residency and citizenship to pass both the "Life in the UK" test and a new English language test from October 2013. Applicants must prove they have English language ability at ESOL Entry Level 3 to pass the new English language test. The new English language test does not, in fact, raise the standard for English proficiency required for permanent residency or citizenship. The existing test already secures this standard. The new English language test will only raise the costs of applications and not improve standards.
The British government also claims that the new test is now a new requirement for citizenship applications from October 2013. This is also inaccurate. The "Life in the UK" citizenship test is really a permanent residency test: it must be passed to secure permanent residency. Passing the citizenship test does not convey immediate citizenship. Applicants must gain permanent residency before applying for citizenship. Permanent residents may apply after one year. The result is that the test is not a new requirement for citizenship applications because (a) all prospective citizenship applicants must have already achieved permanent residency and (b) permanent residency requires passing the "Life in the UK" test which will expand to include a new English language test. So permanent residents will have already had to pass both the "Life in the UK" test and the English language test -- as it already states on page 9 of the current handbook. I note this was published in January 2013 so hardly news in mid-April.
Finally, no journalist has picked up on the problem that a person passing the "Life in the UK" test today will be held to have satisfactory English proficiency. But a person passing the same test from October 2013 will not. Either the government is wrong in its claim the current test guarantees applicants have English proficiency at Level 3 (and so misleading the public) or the future test is a useless gimmick and not raising standards at all (and so misleading the public).
Contact details for any journalists interested in this story can be found HERE.