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The Language Requirement

Passing your Life in the UK test is just one part of proving that you are ready to become a permanent resident or naturalised citizen of the UK.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 65, and applying for British citizenship, or settlement in the UK (known as ‘Indefinite leave to remain’, or ILR), you must meet the ‘Knowledge of Life and Language in the UK’ (KoL) requirement. To meet the KoL requirement you must:

  • pass the life in the UK test
  • have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, or its equivalent.

Your English language qualification must be an approved course and come from an approved test centre – the complete list of approved tests is kept on the GOV.uk website. You should make sure your language qualification will be valid for your application before you start studying.

Exemptions from the English language requirement
Certain people are considered exempt from the English language requirement because their level of English has already been demonstrated by other means.

If you have obtained a bachelor’s degree-level qualification or higher, which was taught in English, then you do not need to show a formal speaking and listening qualification. If taught outside the UK, your qualification must be deemed by UK NARIC to be equivalent, to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, or a doctorate level qualification in the UK.

You are also exempt if you are a citizen of one of the following countries. This is a common sense exemption – there is no need for an Australian to prove they can speak English, for example.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • the British overseas territories
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • The United States of America

If you’re from a country that’s not on the list you’ll need to prove your knowledge of English, even if English is an official language.

If you are exempt from the English language requirement you still have to pass the Life in the UK test.

Health or disability

If you have a ‘long-standing, permanent’ physical or mental health condition you may be exempt. This condition must prevent you from studying for or taking the test permanently. To be exempt you must:

  • be suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
  • have a mental impairment which means that you are unable to learn another language.

You will have to provide evidence from a medical practitioner to confirm this disability.

You will not be exempted on the grounds of illiteracy.

If you have a visual or hearing impairment then this will not necessarily exempt you from the test. Physical conditions like this are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Most test centres are well equipped to assist people with such disabilities. Check with your local test centre to see if they can accommodate you. If they can not, then contact the Home Office for guidance on completing your application for settlement or citizenship.

Exemptions for Settlement / ILR

You don’t need to meet the English language requirement for Settlement applications if you’re applying as:

  • a victim of domestic violence as the partner or spouse of a British citizen or someone settled in the UK
  • the partner or spouse of a person who has died who was either a British citizen or someone settled in the UK
  • an adult dependent relative between 18 and 64 of someone who is present and settled in the UK, is a refugee or has humanitarian protection
  • a refugee living in the UK
  • someone living in the UK with discretionary leave
  • someone living in the UK for with humanitarian protection
  • someone who has permission to stay in the UK as a retired person of independent means
  • a Commonwealth citizen on discharge from HM Forces, including Gurkhas
  • a highly skilled migrant applying under the terms of the highly skilled migrant program (HSMP) judicial review and your dependants
  • someone in exceptional circumstances, eg as an orphan, widow or over-age dependant

Exemptions for citizenship

There are no other exemptions when applying to become a British citizen. You must have a relevant English language qualification even if you were exempt when you were granted settlement.