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Language Requirements Might Mean Applicants for Naturalized British Citizenship Undergo ESOL

According to some recent revisions by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, applicants wishing to gain naturalized citizenship will be required to provide proof that they possess “sufficient knowledge” of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.

“Sufficient knowledge” has been defined according to the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Entry 3. This requires that speakers have the capacity to follow simple spoken instructions and maintain a conversation on a familiar topic in one of the three national languages.

This requirement of naturalization does carry some exemptions. For example, those who are sixty-five years old or older are normally relieved of this requirement. Other exemptions include those who suffer from a long-term illness that severely impairs mobility making them unable to attend language classes. Those who suffer from speech impediments or mental disabilities that prohibit the apprehension or expression of a new language are also excluded from this requirement.

The Five Categories for Applicants

All other applicants will fall into five categories of speakers, each with distinct burdens of proof of competency in a relevant language.

Section 1 covers those people who have been awarded an educational certificate that could only have been earned through competence in a relevant language. Applicants who fall into this category need only send in original diploma or certificate documentation along with official documents outlining the language of instruction.

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Section 2 applies to native English speakers who have not been awarded a relevant educational certificate. In this case, applicants will be required to make an appointment with a governmental official endowed with the power to certify that a person “has a knowledge of English to the level reasonably expected of a person of full age and capacity whose language is English”. Currently notaries, solicitors and specific government employers are the only officials able to make such a judgment.

Section 3 refers to those applicants who have been taking ESOL courses and have been awarded ESOL level 3 or higher. In these circumstances the applicant need only send in original documentation of their certificate.

Section 4 applies to those applicants who have been taking ESOL courses and have not yet reached level 3 but believe that they meet the requirements of competency in a relevant language. Speakers who fall into this category should have an initial ESOL assessment by an accredited instructor, generally found at Further Education Colleges, and if they do indeed prove competency the instructor will be able to officially certify this claim.

Section 5 of the directive is for those applicants who do not possess the necessary language skills to be eligible for naturalization. These applicants are referred to Further Education College for ESOL courses to improve their English. Some groups are entitled to free language classes, and applicants should contact FE colleges to determine if they fall into any of these categories.

Applicants should contact the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to determine which section applies to them, and what procedures they must undergo to prove competency in one of the three languages required for British naturalization.

Nadine Monem

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