English Language Tests for Citizenship


We set up this site when our study guide was published to promote the book and provide more information to those taking the Life in the UK Test. We were aware of how difficult it is to find simple, straightforward information on the evidence people have to provide when they apply for citizenship, settlement or indefinite leave to remain (ILR). So we decided to include Frequently Asked Questions on the Life in the UK Test and English Language requirements. Not surprisingly, it has proved to be the most popular page. We cannot answer any questions about visas or other immigration issues.

The most frequently asked questions we get usually concern English language requirements – which changed in 2015. As we were unable to find a website with easily accessible information on the changes (we’d love to be put right on this point) we decided to write this post.

Early in 2015 the Home Office announced that ESOL Entry 3/B1 qualifications, recognised by Ofqual, would no longer be acceptable as evidence of “knowledge of English language”. Those applicants who require this evidence have to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) at one of the approved SELT centres introduced in April 2015. From 19 November 2015 all applicants for British citizenship, settlement or ILR have had to pass a Secure English Language Test.

The Home Office appointed two providers to deliver the Secure English Language Tests. These tests will not be as widely available as the previous qualifications as the providers have just ten centres each in the UK. However, candidates will be able to book, take a test and get their results within a few weeks.

The providers are Trinity College London and the IELTS SELT Consortium. They will deliver the following qualifications for applicants who need to meet the B1 language requirement for citizenship, settlement and ILR:

  • Trinity College’s Graded Examination in Spoken English. You need to achieve a grade 5 or above in Speaking and Listening.
  • IELTS SELT Consortium offers the Cambridge English Language Assessment. You need to achieve a pass grade.

Both qualifications are valid for just two years so it’s not a good idea to take them too long before you submit your application to the Home Office.

Another recent change: the Home Office announced that, from 1 May 2017, non-EEA nationals will need to pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) in speaking and listening at level A2 after two-and-a-half years in the UK in order to qualify for further leave to remain on the five-year partner or parent route to settlement.


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Immigration in the news

It’s hard to separate myth from reality when reading about immigration in the media. The popular press frequently gives stories about migrants a negative spin just confirming the prejudices of their readers. If proved wrong apologies are hard to find among the latest celebrity scandals and other trivia that fill their pages. The government does little to counteract falsehoods even when their own reports say the opposite of what’s in the tabloids. We’re going to help them by challenging the myths and sharing findings from reliable sources. So what have we learned this month?

The Home Offices Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reported that there’s ‘no strong evidence that new EU migrants have undermined the job prospects of Britain’s school-leavers’. Their report, Migrants in low-skilled work, does however, say that there has been ‘only a small negative impact on the low-paid, but greater resources and more severe penalties are needed to enforce minimum wage rules’. Why is it that the exploited immigrants get scapegoated when it’s their employers who are flouting the law?

Despite all evidence to the contrary a poll by the Guardian and ICM published in June, revealed that almost half of British voters believe that the impact of immigration on employment underlies their sense of economic insecurity.

The latest NatCen British Social Attitudes survey also shows that a quarter of British people said that they believed the main reason immigrants came to the UK was to claim benefits, although successive government reports provide evidence that immigrants are pay substantially more than they receive in health, education or other benefits.

The Guardian’s case studies Six real life stories of migration are a sobering reflection of the impact the hostile environment is having on both immigrants and British citizens who happen to be married to one of them.

Many respondents keen to demonstrate that they are not racists often suggest that the less-skilled migrant should be discouraged from coming to our shores but the highly-skilled should be encouraged. However, an article ,in the Financial Times, by highly qualified Lisa Pollack, a US citizen, revealed that new barriers have been erected to make it more difficult to win the most flexible Tier 1 visa which allows skilled professionals to come here to seek work and gain citizenship after a period of time if they wish.

On a lighter note Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford’s Too Many Immigrants attempted to deal with the concerns of five British-born people unhappy about the impact of immigration by pairing them with five immigrants to ‘look at the issues of jobs, housing and what it means to be British’. Their approach came in for a lot of criticism from both the broadsheets and tabloids. However, the programme also did overturn some of the myths associated with immigrants. Judge for yourself.

More heart warming was the Glasgow Girls a musical rendition of the true story based on the experiences of a group of friends at Drumchapel High School, who launched a high-profile campaign against child detention and deportation after their classmate, an asylum seeker from Kosovo, was snatched in a dawn raid by police and succeeded in changing immigration practices in Scotland. Catch it on BBC3 or iPlayer.

Meanwhile residents of Derby Road, Southampton, soon to appear on our screens a Immigration Street have told Love Productions’ creative director, Kieran Smith, in no uncertain terms not to darken their doorsteps. The Independent reported that residents held up banners reading ‘go away’ and strongly voiced their disapproval of their ‘diverse and harmonious’ neighbourhood being ‘brought into disrepute’ as happened with Love Production’s controversial Benefits Street for Channel 4 last year.

“Claims about ‘benefit tourism’ by EEA immigrants seem to be disconnected from reality.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 13.39.33
A new report, published today by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London, provides evidence that UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives.

In fact, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) contributed about 34% more in tax than they received in benefits, and thus helped to relieve the tax burden on UK-born workers.

The research report – written by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini from CReAM – analysed the contribution of EEA immigrants in each year since 1995. Its main findings are that:

  • Recent immigrants (those who arrived after 1999 and who made up 33% of the overall immigrant population in the UK in 2011) were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives over the period 2000-11. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing.
  • Over the same period, recent EEA immigrants have on average contributed 34% more in taxes than they have received as benefits. Recent immigrants from countries outside the EEA have contributed 2% more in taxes than they have received as transfers.
  • In contrast, over the same period, the total of UK natives’ tax payments were 11% lower than the benefits they received.
  •  Recent immigrants are also far better educated than natives: in 2011, 32% of recent EEA immigrants and 43% of recent non-EEA immigrants had a university degree. The comparable figure for UK natives is 21%.

The number of EEA immigrants in employment is far higher than those of UK-born people and a much smaller receive welfare benefits.  In other words they put considerably more into the economy than they take out.

Professor Christian Dustmann, director of CReAM and co-author of the study, said:

“Our research shows that in contrast with most other European countries, the UK attracts highly educated and skilled immigrants from within the EEA as well as from outside.

“What’s more, immigrants who arrived since 2000 have made a very sizeable net fiscal contribution and therefore helped to reduce the fiscal burden on UK-born workers.

“Our study also suggests that over the last decade or so, the UK has benefited fiscally from immigrants from EEA countries, who have put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers.

“Given this evidence, claims about ‘benefit tourism’ by EEA immigrants seem to be disconnected from reality.”

Download the report here

October News Round Up

Go Home VanPhotograph courtesy of The Telegraph

Immigration continues to dominate the news. This month, a survey of attitudes to immigration hit the headlines, quickly displaced by the Immigration Bill’s passage through Parliament.

As ever, there were very different interpretations of the news. Reporting on the Survation poll for Sky News, The Guardian led with:

“People are more likely to be concerned about immigration if they have little contact with migrants…”

The Express, on the other hand, chose to stress that:

“MORE than two-thirds of Britons believe the UK population is too large and want the government to do more to cut immigration…”

In fact, the poll found that 71% of those who did not know any immigrants supported strong action to crack down on immigration, compared with 58% of those who say they know immigrants well.

However, the government appeared to be ‘cracking down’ a little too enthusiastically – as reported in The Independent, their contractor, Capita, has been sending texts to UK citizens as part of their ‘go home’ campaign saying:

“Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have right to remain.”

All this and more as a new Immigration Bill goes through Parliament…

Make The Daily Mail Apologise

SumOfUsFighting for people over profits


Daily Mail
The Daily Mail has reached a disgusting new low, attacking Labour leader Ed Miliband’s dead father by claiming that he “hated Britain”. And then, when the Mail grudgingly allowed Miliband a right of reply, it reprinted the slimy piece — and added another one for good measure denouncing his dad’s “evil legacy”.

Vicious personal attacks have no place in our press, but this has become routine for the Mail and its editor, Paul Dacre, who uses the paper as a bully pulpit to carry out personal vendettas that rip into anyone who challenges him, pushing right past the bounds of propriety. With the British public appalled at the sort of bile the Mail has launched, now is the time to add our voices to ensure that even the Daily Mail knows when it has gone too far.

Tell the Daily Mail’s editor and owner to apologise for its vicious attack on Ed Miliband’s dead father.

The Daily Mail has been lowering the level of discourse in Britain for decades, and we have to put our feet down and say that enough is enough. Attacking opponents’ families over their patriotism is a disgusting new low that we cannot afford to become the new normal. Join in and sign this petition today, and share it with your friends. As the outcry rolls on and stays in the news, cracks have begun to appear in the facade of the Mail, and with continued pressure we can ensure that the Mail will have to issue an embarrassing apology, enough to make it think twice before launching such horrible attacks in the future.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had one of the Daily Mail’s character-assassination campaigns in our crosshairs. Last spring, a column by Richard Littlejohn mocking transgender schoolteacher Lucy Meadows helped pile on bullying that sent her fleeing from her job, and may have contributed to her suicide weeks later. When the Daily Mail looks to lower the bar on British discourse, we need to be there to push back — we can’t accept this sort of monstering as normal. Help spread word of this today to ensure that the Daily Mail can’t take up its campaigns of hate without paying for them with widespread public condemnation.

Tell Paul Dacre and Viscount Rothermere to apologise for their abhorrent editorial.

Sign the petition here

More Information:

Ed Miliband appalled by Mail’s refusal to apologise for ‘lies’ about father The Guardian, 01 October 2013

Lord Rothermere and Ralph Miliband Historian John Simpkin’s blog, 02 October 2013


Why Don’t You Speak English?

Sifa in Why Don't You Speak English?

Last night we watched Channel 4’s Why Don’t You Speak English? The story of four immigrants, who entered Britain over a year ago, from Poland, Colombia, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have learnt very little English so far.  The Telegraph found it “patronising, dumbed-down, and sensationalised”.  Indeed it did start with a clip of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, but to place it on a par with Bank of Dave, The Man With 10-Stone Testicles or C4’s gypsy programmes, seems a little harsh.

Neil Midgely at the Telegraph would have preferred a focus on the actual language-learning process and detail why immigrants should learn English, and indeed assimilate into British society, suggesting that Channel 4 fought shy of doing so because that would challenge the prized left-wing dogma of mulitculturism.  Really?  Perhaps Channel 4 was just being a little too subtle by including a thoroughly assimilated English-speaking family of Indian heritage as the ordinary British family that hosted Agnieszka from Poland. 

Tom Melzer at the Guardian and Gerard Gilbert at the Independent were less scathing. The Guardian review helpfully highlighted the many pitfalls that lightly-briefed, well-meaning amateurs frequently topple into headfirst when trying to teach English, as well as the moments of genuine emotion.  The Independent focused as much on the entertainment as the educational elements of the programme – imagining Nigel Farrage beaming his approval as Fabian’s host held forth about immigrants “taking English jobs” and having “to look after our own first”.

The survey on Channel 4’s website that accompanies the programme appears to be designed to confirm that the UKIP stance is shared by the majority of viewers.  For instance 80% of respondents believe that immigration should be reduced and 78% that immigrants who can’t speak English should not be entitled to claim state benefits. There is no question about whether it’s fair to withhold benefits from people who have worked and paid taxes. As ever, there is no challenge to the misguided belief that it is easy for a new arrival to claim benefits even when in dire need. The question ‘All things considered, how much do you think watching a programme like this will change your attitude toward immigration in the long term?’ left us quite bemused.

We await next week’s programme (30 July) with bated breath. Will the learners’ English language continue to grow in fluency? Will Agnieska review her CV? Have Eileen and Steve learnt to say Apo, not Apple? Will the viewers’ prejudices be challenged or confirmed?


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