The requirement for immigrants to pass an English language test before coming to live in the UK may be relaxed, as judges at the Supreme Court have found that it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.
Under current rules, spouses of immigrants already in the UK have to pass an English language test in their home country before being allowed to join them. However, during a recent judgement, five judges at the Supreme Court advised that guidance on the current rules may contravene Article 8 of the Convention of Human Rights, which deals with the right to a family life, The Telegraph has reported.
Lord Neuberger, the court’s president, said: “It does appear virtually certain that there will be a significant number of cases where application of the guidance will lead to infringement of Article 8 rights.”
Deputy President Lady Hale agreed, saying that implementation of the rule under current guidelines is “likely to be incompatible with the convention rights of a significant number of sponsors.”
Fellow judge Lord Hodge said the guidance, “may result in a significant number of cases in which people’s Article 8 rights will be breached”.
He added: “To avoid that unfortunate outcome, the Government may need to take further steps toward providing opportunities for spouses and partners to meet the requirement, or may need to amend its guidance.”
The justices made their remarks as they unanimously dismissed a legal challenge against the rule by two wives who are British citizens.
Mrs Saiqa Bibi, who was born in Coventry and lives with her family in the West Midlands, and Mrs Saffana Ali both lodged a case claiming the pre-entry measures breached their right to a family life under Article 8.
Mr Bibi lives in Pakistan, where the nearest test centres are 71 and 88 miles away respectively. Mr Ali resides in Yemen, where, the court heard, there is no approved test centre which can tutor applicants to the required level.
Mr Ali was also described as having no formal education, and both men would have to learn computer skills before taking part in the tests.
The judges requested further submissions from both parties on “whether a declaration should be made that the operation of the guidance in its present form is incompatible with Article 8 rights where compliance with the requirement is impracticable”.
The Conservatives have vowed to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights following widespread criticism of Article 8, particularly in relation to its use in preventing the deportation of criminals.