Supreme Court rules on the legality of English Language requirement in marriage visas

The Supreme Court has today ruled that the UK immigration authorities’ requirement that husbands, wives, unmarried partners and civil partners of British citizens must have basic English language skills before they enter the UK is lawful: R (on the application of Ali and Bibi v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 68. The Supreme Court (comprising of Lady Hale and Lords Neuberger, Wilson, Hughes and Hodge) ruled that although the law itself was not unlawful by reason of it being incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, its application in practice may render decisions in individual cases unlawful. Lady Hale (with whom Lord Wilson agrees) suggests the appropriate solution is for the UK immigration authorities to apply the rule in such a manner so as to ensure that a family member is not refused an entry visa if “it is simply impracticable for a person to learn English, or to take the test, in the country of origin, whether because the facilities are non-existent or inaccessible because of the distance and expense involved“.

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