The Supreme Court in UK has recently rejected a challenge against the country’s immigration rule requiring immigrants to be able to speak English before joining their spouses in UK.
Since late 2010, the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK are required to pass an English language test before moving there. Before the amendment to the immigration rules, they were only required to demonstrate such knowledge two years post entering the country.
The case was brought by two female British nationals Saiqa Bibi and Saffana Ali whose husbands, from Yemen and Pakistan; want to come to the UK to be with their families. The ladies claimed that the requirement breached their right to a private and family life, prescribed under article Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It was said in both cases their husbands would not be able to pass a test before moving to the UK. But the UK Supreme Court ruled that the regulation did not infringe the said article, thus the Supreme Court judgment followed the earlier rulings in the UK High Court and court of appeal that there was no disproportionate interference with family life. A panel of five judges was asked to rule whether the pre-entry measure was "unreasonable, disproportionate and discriminatory".
The case was argued on grounds that both the applicants have no formal education, and there is presently no ‘approved’ test center in Yemen that provides tuition in English to the required level. For the Pakistani national, it was said that the nearest approved test centers are at least 70 miles away.
The UK Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal but indicated that the way the scheme operated might be unlawful and asked the women’s lawyers to present further arguments. The court also suggested that exemptions, if any, may only be made in cases where it is impractical to apply the rule.