UK: Workers must prove language skills (footballers exempt)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Sep 22 14:13:17 UTC 2007

Workers must prove language skills: British prime minister demands
migrants show competency in English before arrival

Max de Lotbiniere
Friday September 21, 2007
Guardian Weekly

Tens of thousands of migrant workers will have to pass a test of English
before they can enter Britain under new rules announced by the prime
minister, Gordon Brown, this month. The prime minister revealed the new
English language requirement at the annual Trade Union Congress conference
as part of a range of measures intended to overcome fears that cheap and
casualised foreign labour is undermining job security for the British
workforce. A two-pronged policy will make it more difficult for non-EU
migrants to enter the British labour force by tightening language
requirements and offer a package of measures to fast-track unemployed
Britons into jobs.

>>From next year, all skilled workers entering Britain from outside the EU
will be required to be proficient in English equivalent to GCSE level
(comparable to level C1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for
Languages). The prime minister also held open the prospect of extending
the new rules to other migrant workers. "For those who come to Britain to
do skilled work we will first require you to learn English, a requirement
we are prepared to extend to lower-skilled workers as well," he said.

New rules for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) - the highest of
the three categories of skills levels used for issuing work visas - were
rushed into force last year. Now those applying for or renewing HSMP visas
must provide evidence of having been educated in an English-medium
university or have achieved an English language test score equivalent to
level six in the Ielts exam. Separate language tests have been in force
since 2005 for those seeking citizenship or right of abode.

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, told the BBC: "One of the ways in which
I think we can make sure that people integrate more quickly . . . is by
expecting people who are coming here through the skilled and slightly less
skilled route to actually be able to speak English." The government
estimates that 35,000 of the 95,000 skilled migrants who entered Britain
last year would not have been able to show they could speak the language.
The requirement cannot be imposed on EU citizens, who enjoy freedom of

Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, a charity
offering migrants advice, called the new rules discriminatory against
non-English-speaking countries in favour of the white, English-speaking
old Commonwealth countries. "All of us can accept the need for those who
settle in Britain to be able to speak English and the citizenship tests
include that. Those who come to Britain to contribute to the economy have
to pass this same test after five years if they wish to remain. So why
insist on it when they arrive as many will not want to remain in Britain?"
he asked. Exemptions to the new requirements will be available to
footballers signed to premiership clubs.,,2174262,00.html


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