Britain To Require Spouses From Outside The EU To Know English

Britain to require spouses from outside the EU to know English

By Jennifer Quinn
The Associated Press, June 10, 2010

London (AP) — Love may have its own language, but that's not good enough for the British government.

It wants English, too.

Starting this fall, the spouse of a citizen who is coming from outside the European Union and wants to live in Britain will have to prove a basic command of English.

The new coalition government led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron announced the move Wednesday. Countries across Europe have been tightening immigration as concerns rise over unemployment rates and the ability of newcomers to integrate.

The Netherlands was holding an election Wednesday in which a far-right party that wants to ban all immigration from non-Western countries has a shot at doubling its seats in Parliament.

In Britain, the government is casting the new policy as an effort to promote integration not to keep out foreigners.

'The new English requirement for spouses will help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services,' Home Secretary Theresa May said.

Couples already have to meet other criteria, such as proving their marriage is genuine and demonstrating they can support themselves financially. And language tests are required for skilled workers and people applying for permanent residency or citizenship.

The changes to Britain's rules follow a hard-fought general election campaign in which immigration policy was a contentious issue.

The new measures have been criticized by civil libertarians, lawyers and activists.