Changes to ESOL requirements for settlement

On 7 April 2010 the UK Border Agency (UKBA) made some important changes to the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) requirements from people seeking settlement in the UK.

Until April it was necessary for settlement applicants aged between 18 and 64 to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the English language and life in the UK. They did this by passing the ‘Life in the UK’ test and, if necessary, obtaining an approved ESOL qualification if their standard of English was below ESOL Entry Level 3.

The requirements have now changed, however. To satisfy the ESOL requirements you now must ensure that you study at an ‘accredited college’ and also be able to demonstrate that you have progressed at least one level to obtain your qualification.

These changes apply to any application made on or after 7 April 2010 and do not affect any of the provisions for those taking the ‘Life in the UK’ test.

Accredited colleges are publicly funded colleges which are subject to inspection by Ofsted, or a private college which is accredited by one of the following:

  • Accreditation UK
  • the British Accreditation Council (BAC)
  • the Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS), or
  • the Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC)

The UKBA automatically refuses any applications sent with qualifications from unaccredited colleges. The UKBA is cracking down on any abuse of the system, such as those found by the investigation by The Times newspaper into the Oxford College of Management Sciences in August 2010.

Note that the UKBA have stated that they will refuse applications for settlement or citizenship by anyone using ‘dubious means’ and such applicants may be barred from reapplying for ten years. If you have any doubts about your qualifications, or would like further information, including guidance on accredited colleges, please see the UKBA website -

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