English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

You must be able to speak and understand English to a certain level if you want to settle in the United Kingdom. If your English skills are below English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Entry 3 level (or intermediate 1 level in Scotland) you must be able to demonstrate that you have progressed at least one level before you apply.

You can get advice on ESOL courses from advisors in the other languages. For more information see the ESOL page on the DirectGov site.

If your English skills are at or above that level then you will have to take the Life in the UK Test. It is accepted that passing the test is sufficient demonstration of your English language skills to meet this requirement. If you have completed an ESOL course in order to meet the ‘knowledge of language and life in the UK’ requirement when you applied for settlement in the UK, you will not need to take another course for further applications.

ESOL requirements

Following changes to the regulations in April 2010, in order to demonstrate your knowledge of the English language from 29 November 2010, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have attended your ESOL course at an accredited college
  • The course must have included citizenship materials derived from the document Citizenship Materials for ESOL Learners (ISBN: 1-84478-5424)
  • You must have obtained a relevant ESOL qualification from an approved awarding body
  • You must demonstrate that you have made relevant progress - this means progressing at least one level
An ‘accredited college’ is:
  • a publicly funded college that is subject to inspection by Ofsted (if it is in England), the Education and Training Inspectorate (Northern Ireland), HM Inspectorate of Education (Scotland), Estyn (Wales); or an inspection programme that has been approved by the Island’s Government (in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man)
  • a private college that has been accredited by Accreditation UK, the British Accreditation Council (BAC), the Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS) or the Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC)
A ‘relevant ESOL qualification’ is
  • an ESOL qualification in speaking and listening at Entry 1, Entry 2 or Entry 3 level approved by the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)
  • one National Qualifications Unit in ESOL at Access 2, Access 3 or Intermediate 1 level approved by the Scottish Qualifications Authority
‘Approved awarding bodies’ in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are
  • Ascentis (formerly Open College of the Northwest)
  • Cambridge ESOL
  • City & Guilds (Pitmans)
  • Edexcel
  • Education Development International (EDI)
  • English Speaking Board (International) Limited
  • National Open College Network
  • Trinity College London

In Scotland, the only approved awarding body is the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Accredited colleges

If you are unsure of whether or not a college is accredited, you can check on the ESOL page on the DirectGov site. This page gives information about courses in your area.

Alternatively, lists of the private accredited colleges are available from the following organisations:

‘Relevant progress’

The UK Border Agency states that you have to be able to demonstrate ‘relevant progress’ with your English language abilities. What this means in real terms is that the college you studied at must be able to confirm that you have obtained at least one level of the ESOL qualification. If you were initially assessed as being below Entry level 1 then achieving Entry level 1 is enough to meet this requirement.

It is very important that you check your college is appropriately accredited before you begin your studies. Owing to some recent cases of ‘Scam’ colleges giving out qualifications where studies had not been completed, if your ESOL qualification does not meet the requirements above then your application will be refused.

If you have completed your ESOL course at a college that is in the process of applying for accreditation you might want to wait until the application is complete before submitting your application for settlement or citizenship.