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Are immigration rules fair?

11:12 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Immigrants marrying UK citizens will be asked to prove they have a command of English under new rules. Should immigrants to any country have to prove they have a command of the language?

The measures will apply to partners coming to the UK from areas outside the EU, such as South Asia.

Home Secretary Theresa May wants to "help promote integration", but campaigners say the plans are discriminatory.

Will the rules promote integration and remove cultural barriers? Are they discriminatory? Will you be affected by the changes?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.


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  • Comment number 1.


    How do you expect people to respect and contribute to our way of life and our communities and values if they can't speak our language?

    The rules should be extended to all migrants EU or otherwise.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    I just do not see what the problem is here.

    Learning the native language benefits everyone. The Immigrant is able to communicate with natives and is seen as 'integrating'. Natives are much more easily able to communicate and help immigrants.

    It's NOT an imposition on prospective immigrants but a way of helping, AND is another way of showing a commitment to this country.

    Those who migrate to the UK fleeing persecution should have free courses in English made available.

  • Comment number 5.

    You want to come and live in my country? Have a trade or skill we're lacking, learn to speak and read English, respect our customs, laws and pay your taxes, then you will be welcomed.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is a little too late. The best citizens may not even speak English!

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    At present, visa applicants have to show only that their marriage or partnership is genuine and that they can financially support themselves.
    Under the new rules, the applicants will have to show their grasp of English is at the same level, at least, of a five to seven-year-old.

    Seems fair to me, if you intend to move to another country to live permanently it's only sensible to learn the language. Otherwise how can you manage?
    I would love to retire to Italy, if I could I would learn at least basic Italian before I went.
    I don't see how this proposal is discriminatory, who is saying it is?

  • Comment number 9.

    It seems harsh on someone who is legitimately seeking asylum but for someone coming over here for an arranged married its perfectly reasonable.

    However if you want to live in a foreign country you should have the common courtesy to learn the local language and customs to be able to integrate within that country.

    Perhaps for the asylum seeker scenario they should be given the opportunity to learn the language and be involved in a community project or service until they have picked up the language and can then continue with a profession?

    Failure to have immigrants learn the language and culture breeds resentment, division, creates ghettos and does nothing to help generate a multi-cultural society.

    This works both ways - i'm thinking of Brit ex-pats living overseas who don't bother to learn the local language or customs of their host country too.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great news. At last some common sense from the Government. Why should we have to provide translation services for people who choose to come and live here of their own volition The language of our country is English. If they can't don't understand it that is their problem not ours. Great way to save money. When I lived in Germany I had to learn German. They didn't provide translators for me.

  • Comment number 11.

    I've lived in Brasil and didn't speak good Portuguese initially.
    That was hard going in the begining, but it drove me to learn to speak the language. I think that people should be able to buy food and interact with other people in the language spoken in the country they are living in. If they can't, it makes their life harder.

    Its reasonable to insist that those coming into the UK speak English.
    I hate seeing 'translations are available' on government, NHS and local authority documents. How much does that cost?

  • Comment number 12.

    The plans are not discriminatory ! Its for thier own benefit if they want to integrate in the society, get a job etc.

  • Comment number 13.

    Will we apply the same rules for students on visas? I think this restriction would be unpopular amongst ethnic groups where arranged marriages are customary. Also, if other countries imposed similar rules it would be a barrier to us exporting goods and services.

    I do not think this is such a good idea. It would be better to allow spouses in on temporary visas, say two years, to avail the opportunity of learning the language. The penalties on bogus marriages should be incresaed.

  • Comment number 14.

    Treating one race differently from another is always a cause of social unrest.

    We cannot be denying those who have made real attempts at learning english, when there are people from the EU who make no attempt at learning it and are exempt from the rule.

    Also, if this rule is to be only applied to marriage visa applicants, it is doubly unfair. I believe these would have a right to not integrate so much if they choose not to do so.

    It is those who come here without familial ties, relations or bonds, seeking only employment, but with an extreme reluctance to use English. Companies become more populous with foreign workers to the point that the employ only speakers of foreign languages because "most staff speak polish" or whatever.

    I have very rarely heard the complaint of "I could not communicate with my neighbour's spouse". When I have heard it been used, it's been because of a thick scottish accent or something. If the couple can't communicate, then the marriage breaks up before the 5 years are up, and citizenship does not get granted.

  • Comment number 15.

    How can an open door be fair? Well not to the natives anyway, but our opinions are not what the Government want to hear!

    We live in a country where terrorists cannot be deported because of worries for their human rights - what about the human rights of their intended victims?

    As usual too little, too late! Bring out troops home and deal with the enemy within now!

  • Comment number 16.

    If you become a citizen of any country through marriage, there may be a time when you find you need to support yourself due to death or divorce. Having to learn the language first limits your options.

    You may need the emergency services - there may not be an interpreter available.

    If an interpreter is required, the person requiring the interpreter will not foot the bill. Already there are short NHS and local authority forms which have turned into small booklets as various languages set out the same information, not for tourists, but for UK citizens.

    Having no grasp of the language spoken in the country you have selected to live in is irresponsible (in this I include us Brits travelling abroad and expecting everyone else to speak English).

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment is awaiting moderation.

  • Comment number 18.

    How can these rules be discriminatory? The word means showing or making an unfair distinction between different categories of people - asking for a command of English is an equalisation process which surely encourages understanding and integration.

    What IS discriminatory is not extending it to EU citizens. If our membership forbids this there is a very simple answer which will save us far more money than the imposition of forthcoming government cuts.-

  • Comment number 19.

    I think this is a good idea, then you can get rid of all the non-job translator services being paid silly amounts of public money to explain the benefits system loopholes!!!

    Although it might be a little hypocritical to pick on language. How many non-English people can speak English as apposed to how many English speaking people can speak another language?

    Also, if they are coming to Wales, do they have to have a grasp on Welsh?

  • Comment number 20.

    Its not going to hurt to tighten up the rules.

    I'm pretty liberal but we can't have a situation where people in Britain are bringing relatives over from the Motherland for marriage forever.
    Especially when some of those second or third generation decsendants of immigrants don't want to marry a relative for the Motherland.

    Its just not sustainable and does nothing to encourage intergration.

  • Comment number 21.

    If other countries applied the same standard, I think it would be bad news for many British people wanting to live in non-English speaking countries.

  • Comment number 22.

    This will be especially good for women in order for them to express their concerns, verbally and/or in writing, to UK authorities if they are subjected to, perhaps, a forced marriage?

    Whichever way you look at this, it has to be good for immigrants; integration, new friendship and ongoing understanding, which are all based on a shared language, universally.

    Isolation by culture causes loneliness for some, especially women, and particularly those without knowledge of the language of the host language and culture they find themselves in?

  • Comment number 23.

    I am pleased with these new proposals. It should be a requirement of anyone wishing to settle here that they have a basic command of the language. I am glad that the government are looking to expand beyond spouses & require everyone to speak the language.

  • Comment number 24.

    Of course its fair that they should have to be able to speak the language in the country they are planning to spend (presumably) the rest of their lives in.
    No surprise that "campaigners" think its unfair, there are always plenty of people about to defend those that just cant be bothered.

    No idea why in this country any move like this is always accompanied by the usual liberal hand wringing and lots of fear that we might be accused of being racist.

    Its perfectly acceptable to expect people moving to this country to LIVE to learn the language.
    If anyone from this country moved to France, Germany or Spain and didn't bother to learn the language they would struggle too. And they would deserve to.
    And god help you if you moved to somewhere like Japan and didn't bother to learn how to speak or read the language. You would have to get used to spending a lot of time being lost. And guess what - you would deserve to.

    If you are going to make a foreign country your home then you NEED to learn the language and customs of that country. If you don't like that - then don't move!
    This applies just as much to people immigrating to this country as it does to those emigrating from it.

    Add to that the savings that could be made on public services if translation to a dozen different languages was not required.
    If anything it doesn't go far enough and should include the EU as well.

    These campaign groups seem to be under the delusion that Britain some kind of magical paradise that everyone in the world has a RIGHT to move to. They don't. We have our own language and our own customs, if you want to move here then you have to adapt to them. If you don't want to learn the language or don't want to adapt to British customs and culture, then maybe you should reconsider if this is really the country you want to move to. Maybe another one would suit you better?

    Just seems like common sense to me!

  • Comment number 25.

    Blimey. Discussing immigration on Have Your Say? I hope the moderators are on standby. There will be plenty of frothing at the mouth before the day is out, mark my words.

    Maybe these proposed measures should work both ways. How many tax dodgers who flocked to the Spanish costas during the Labour years bothered to learn the local language? It would appear not many, judging by the British ghettos that now exist over there.

  • Comment number 26.

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  • Comment number 27.

    The only thing that matters when it comes to Immigration rules is what is in the interest of the current citizens, especially the indiginous poplulation. The government should NEVER put the immigrants wants and needs ahead of the people who have lived here for thousands of years. Having a command of the language of the land should be a given.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think that it is right to do this and those people who say that it is discrimination, for goodness sake, what about us who live here already and speak English. What about our Children who go to schools where 90% of the children cannot speak English. This is England, if I moved to Spain then I would expect to learn Spanish and I would expect the Spanish to expect that I would. I think that allowing people to move here without learning our language is allowing them to show little respect of the British society. I do not disagree with multicultural societies, but not enforcing this does mean that integration is low. Look at multicultural towns like Bradford, Slough. There is little integration there, they all stay separated.

  • Comment number 29.

    So what happens if they can not speak English? Are we seriously say that we would not allow the spouse into this country? Doesn't seem workable to me. It also couldn't be applied to citizens of EU countries.
    We have to hope other countries don't follow our lead as given the fact that British people aren't very good at languages, there will be a lot of British people denied entry to other countries.

  • Comment number 30.

    This rule should be applied to every immigrant. You cannot assimilate into a community or workplace if you cannot speak the common language.

  • Comment number 31.

    Of course immigrants should be able to communicate in English, and understand and sign up to our customs, laws, ethics and everything else that makes Britain Great. But this is not the main point. Did it ever occur to anyone that the reason 361,000 people left Britain last year was because 503,000 moved in, including the 59,000 people from outside the EU granted a visa to live with their partner?

    We wouldn't need new homes, be so overcrowded, see the destruction of our countryside and culture, and the ghettoisation of so many of our cities, without such immigration. Native British population growth is negative.

    Give us our nation back - we need to restrict immigration, but from within the EU as well as without. I hate to think Ed Balls is correct on anything, but he is right on this.

    And, by the way, the same thing applies in reverse. If we emigrate to other nations in large numbers (unless they want us to), we damage them. And cultural change informs hatred and therefore violence.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    This is pathetic, I know people born in this country (who contribute little if anything to society) who could do with lessons on integration and should have their grasp of the English language put to the test!

    Immigrants are not the root of Britain's problems and the government/public need to get this into their thick skulls.

  • Comment number 34.

    18 months ago my partner took his Life in the UK test at a centre in Kensington.

    One of those also taking the test was wearing a full burkha, and was at no point asked to remove it to prove her identity.

    Later, at the citizenship ceremony, one of those becoming a UK citizen had to be led through the oath word by word, because her standard of English was so poor.

    My view based on the above? Not only make immigrants have a good command of English, but make sure the rules can't be susceptible to e.g. someone taking the test on behalf of someone else.

  • Comment number 35.

    The country's full and we do not need any more immigrants.

  • Comment number 36.


    If I ever emigrate to a non English speaking country I would learn the language and not be just another ignorant Englishman, and anyone hoping to live in the UK should do the same or stay where you are!

  • Comment number 37.

    Yes, hearing someone talking in English is almost becoming a novelty in many parts of the UK, and in London particularly.

    Try listening to announcements at London Underground stations as they are often incomprehensible as the standard of English is so poor and the accent is so thick.

    And Eastern Europeans should speak English when out and about in public. Oh, and some manners like not leaving your empty cans of booze on train seats and not putting your feet on the seats wouldn't go amiss either.

  • Comment number 38.

    I have come across too many people during my job from EU who can't speak or understand single word of English, if we need integration what about people from EU, why they don't need it.

  • Comment number 39.

    This would be based on the well tried system the British used when becoming economic migrants to North America, Africa, Asia and Australasia over the past few centuries would it? We did a wonderful job of integrating with the indigenous populations of all those places, learning their languages and respecting their traditions didn't we. Oh no, silly me, I forgot, we just killed most of them.

    We British, more particularly we English, might not be very bright but when it comes to hypocrisy there's no one to touch us.

  • Comment number 40.

    I am trying to figue out how I can go live in the US. Not much luck with that idea though. They have immigration rules. They only let people in if they are working there or have family there.

    It makes me laugh that our immigration laws are fought against by hard line fools when we take on illegal asylum seekers without question.

    About time someone looked at the problem and made some progress

  • Comment number 41.

    As an immigrant myself, I am 200% behind this new rule. Getting the immigrant spouses to have the ability to speak English will not only help them integrate, but they also wont feel alienated in this country. Speaking the language will also empower them to understand their rights and responsibilities in this new country in case of partner abuse, or at work etc... so they can live in a safe, non-threatening environment.

    I dont understand why so many people see it as discriminatory, moving here is a choice , if you don't like it , don't come. SIMPLES

  • Comment number 42.

    Just like the British ex-pats do?

    How many ex-pats in Spain speak Spanish? How many in Dubai speak Arabic?
    How many bother to learn another language. We (in a lot of cases) don't do it, why should they?

    Smacks of hypocrisy to me.

  • Comment number 43.

    This seems like a no-brainer to me. Not being able to speak the language would leave them completely dependant on somebody else and potentially a prisoner to an abuser's will.

    This is not just about people with totally different cultures in rural Pakistan marrying their cousins but also middle aged and old men buying wives from Russia and the far east as sex toys.

    They should also have a test on British culture so they know the rights we are all entitled to and nobody is allowed to take away, dressing how you want, not how you are told, having abusers arrested etc.

  • Comment number 44.

    This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. My maternal granmother is from france and my paternal grandfather is from Italy, they both speak English perfectly. If i go to another country i do my best to learn at least the basics and i'm not even going to live there.

  • Comment number 45.

    This is the best idea I've heard in a long time, and it's a testament to its validity when the only arguments its opponents can direct against it try to paint pretty pictures of people in love. All very lovely and everything, but not remotely practical - and they know it. It's infinitely more important that someone can integrate into society and not feel segregated than it is that they should join the 'love of their life' as soon as possible.
    I've seen it happen elsewhere: someone moves out of England to another country, they can't speak the local language, and they spend the next several years pretty much isolated.
    Ideally they'd apply this to all new immigrants, not just those from outside the EU, although I appreciate the legal obstacles there. And applying it to all existing immigrants, whilst also ideal, could only end with deporting those who fail, which might be going a bit too far.

  • Comment number 46.

    It's a good start; there's no more room in the UK....

    but how many UK citizens move abroad and never attempt to learn the language.

  • Comment number 47.


    What would Jesus say
    When fellow man is turned away?

    Where is the compassion
    When citizenship is rationed?

    If you have different skin
    Will you be let in?

    Are you them or us
    Will you cause a fuss?

    What good will you do
    Or should you be in a zoo?

    We’re all the same species
    The same animal
    Even if you are different
    You can still be my pal

    Is speaking the language
    Just discrimination?
    Where did we come from
    To form this great nation

    Irish, Celts, Saxons, Normans
    Danes, Gauls or Germans?

    Africans, Jews, Pakistanis
    Mexicans, Asians or Afghanis?

    They all bring something to our table
    So lets welcome them in while we are able.

    What would Jesus say?
    Welcome brother, come and stay.

  • Comment number 48.

    It's not enough to have "tick box" basic English...

    1. They must be able to converse in English about all basic things with an English person.

    2. They MUST show a good knowledge of the British way of life (including religion, law and customs) and demonstrate a healthy respect for the British.

    3. As the UK is over populated, their partners should not be allowed in in the first place unless we can not do without them (special skills etc) and they must agree not to bring in or produce more than two children who must also pass the appropriate tests.

  • Comment number 49.

    It may well be discriminatory but not necessarily to the immigrants

    There are many who argue that Lowland Scots should be classed as a seperate language, there’s no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects so it’s a debatable point.

    In the Western Isles, Gaelic is the first language of much of the population and there are immigrants there, should immigrants settling there not be given the option of Gaelic rather than English.

    Under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish Gaelic and Ulster Scots are recognised as “part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland”. and can therefore be considered languages of the UK, although Ulster Scots could be classed as a dialect (see Lowland Scots argument).

    In summary the Living languages spoken by people of the UK are English, Scots Gaelic and Welsh with possibly Lowland Scots, Ulster Scots and Irish Gaelic.

    Others might want to add their own local dialect to that list.

    If one wants a modern immigrant to be a native speaker then presumably proficiency in any of the living UK languages should be sufficient.

    The real point though is that those who claim that there is a “single British culture” to which immigrants must conform will find there are many on these islands who would say the “single British culture” is, to them, a relatively recent immigrant itself.

  • Comment number 50.

    It is a disgrace. Why should they have to learn English at all? There are plenty of translation services available, so it's not as if they need to.

    We need more hard-working immigrants in this country, not less.

  • Comment number 51.

    I take the point -Styles 11.43- that the principle could be applied to current residents too. We should cut benefits by half for those who do not speak english, and in return provide free lessons.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    Immigration rules to get into the UK don't have to be fair; but, they do have to be clearly understood by those planning to come here, strictly enforced by the immigration services who administer them and also support the best interests of the indigenous population already in residence.

    The alternative always being that if anybody planning to come here doesn't like these rules, then they know what to do!

  • Comment number 54.

    "but campaigners say the plans are discriminatory."

    Of course they are discriminatory - that is the whole point.

    The plans allow our country to discriminate from those who cannot speak our indigenous language and, therefore, cannot make themselves understood or understand life here from those who can speak English and can integrate.

    That is why the plans are most welcome and absolutely necessary.

    By the same token, it is completely ridiculous for English speaking people to migrate to other countries and not learn the local language and then expecting a tail-wags-dog society that is supposed to accommodate their self-centered laziness.

    BTW, Why is bankrupt Britain allowing local councils to waste vast sums of taxpayer's money on translations services and how is this going to encourage those who can't speak English to learn the language and integrate?

  • Comment number 55.

    I can only use my own experience.

    I met a beautiful, intelligent woman in Eastern Europe (firstly over the internet) and we enjoyed each other's company. I asked her to marry me and to move to UK. She fulfilled the criteria in place, although she had minimal English skills at the time, so was allowed to come here. We've just celebrated 7 years of marriage, she has worked ever since she was allowed to and will be going to university this year to get a (2nd) degree to allow her to be still more productive and pay more money into the tax system.

    Now, not all people who come here have such success, and having an understanding of English greatly helps, but her first few months in UK were a time when she was not allowed to work so she used them to learn English. To prove to herself that she was capable she studied at college and passed her Higher (Scottish equivalent of A Level) English at first sitting.

    So while I have no issue with immigrants having to demonstrate basic English skills to receive a visa I also think that availability of training in their first few months here would help. And for those who like to moan I'm not suggesting it should be paid from Public funds, but privately funded, and a further test of improvement undertaken at the end of that time to show improved understanding of English.

  • Comment number 56.

    I lived in the Middle east for a long time with my now ex husband I did not have to learn to speak Arabic but I met many British who had lived there for years even married and had children yet they never spoke a word off the language of that country will we demand those from Australia learn to speak English or how about those from the USA who do not speak English how about the Scots and Irish or the true English the Wales. The UK has mant different ways of speaking English I had to put on a posh voice when dealing with anyone in London because many of them could not understand what I was saying from Liverpool its the same old chestnut blame the immigrant to cover the Govenment problems do may people in this country understand what the hell is said by our leaders or bankers what is liquidity money why can they not say we have to print more money?. As for knowing what this country is about well good luck to them I am 61 and I still have no idea as I am sure that those who rule have no idea as long as confusion reigns and we can play the blame game.

  • Comment number 57.

    "Under the new rules, the applicants will have to show their grasp of English is at the same level, at least, of a five to seven-year-old."

    So as long as the person in question can read The Sun they'll be able to get in. Not much of a test, that.

    "I believe being able to speak English should be a pre-requisite for anyone who wants to settle here. The new English requirement for spouses will help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services."

    I'm not sure how learning to speak English will protect public services, especially when the kinds of public service she's probably eluding to are being eroded by native English-speakers whose grasp of English is at about the same level as a 5-to-7-year-old.

  • Comment number 58.

    About the only reason I haven't moved abroad is that I don't speak a second language - I like the idea.
    Shame it doesn't include EU states.
    Think about what it would mean for British emigrants if Spain, Italy, Portugal or France.

  • Comment number 59.

    Sometimes life isnt fair!

    You could argue: Is it fair that the idengious people of this country have to come 2nd to immigrants? Is it fair that we all have to go about delay life with 60million peole cramed onto a small island? It is not fair, but we are not allowed to complain for fear of being accused of racism, so we just calm down and carry on.

    If you intend to live in another country it is only right that you obey the laws and respect that countries culture. Wouldn't it make it easier for immigrants to get by if they at least had a basic understanding of English. It seems like common sense.

  • Comment number 60.

    I don't really care whether they're discriminatory or not. People living in Britain should speak English; if they can't or won't speak English then they should go somewhere else. They don't have to come here, they do have a choice.

    I had a leaflet through the post last week from the NHS - if I was unable to understand English the NHS was happy to provide it in any one of about 18 different languages!!!!! A totally ridiculous and unnecessary burden on our already 'strapped for cash' budget.

  • Comment number 61.

    Far too little and far too late. If we'd had measures like this in place ten years ago, we wouldn't now have a country that, far from being "multicultural", is riddled with resentment, social division and violent crime, with immigrants living together with their fellow nationals in city ghettos and the native population left feeling betrayed and disenfranchised in their own country. It will take far more than insisting on a rudimentary knowledge of English to stop forced marriages and sex trafficking - just two of the benefits of "multiculturalism" (and I defy anyone to show that we had these 'benefits' before we became multicultural!)

  • Comment number 62.

    Judging by the basic errors often perpetrated by the BBC and the media in general, it's not just immigrants who need to learn English! It would make my dear old English teacher turn in her grave!
    For a start, we are BRITISH citizens, not 'UK citizens'. We're not 'Brits' either! There would be outrage if we referred to Americans as 'Yanks' or the Japanese as 'Japs'.
    Please get it right and show a bit of respect for us British!

  • Comment number 63.

    Yes I agree that you should be able to speak the language (English) when living in the UK, but the tables can be turned & the same can said when people from England emigrate to another country. Will they learn how to speak a foreign language to live in another country, for e.g. Spanish, German etc.

    I think not..

  • Comment number 64.

    "# 7. At 11:50am on 09 Jun 2010, soccerhawkins120131 wrote:
    I hope they don't try to cut down on people of limited income....The chief bankers and company CEO's should take the brunt...particularly companies who maed the crisis worse. Also, MP's, peers....should economise for our sake, not us for their sake"

    I know 'bash the banker' is usually OK on any forum, but are you sure you posted on the right thread?

  • Comment number 65.

    Not as fair as Australia's - to the rest of the population that is.

    Points system - do you have a skill that is in demand?

    If yes, then they know you will contribute to the country - not be a burden.

    I know there is a high percentage of skilled immigrants in the UK who work and pay taxes and make this country better - it is just the others that spoil it for everyone else.

  • Comment number 66.

    How can someone be a useful member of society if they cannot communicate?

    If someone wants to come from a developing country and cannot speak English, presumably the British person they wish to marry can translate for them. One can reasonably assume the happy couple to be have some means of communication.

    If a person cannot manage any English then by all means give them a 90-day entry visa. If at the end of 90 days they have not managed to accumulate any English skills one might ask how serious they are about learning our language.

    At the end of the initial two years require a higher standard of English comprehension than at the beginning. Those who have learned some English to come here will have had two years to improve. If they haven't improved, one might wonder whether they intend to ever improve.

  • Comment number 67.

    So we get the howl of "discrimination" from those who think it fine that Councils have to translate documents into many different languages? As English is for most intents and purposes the world's second language anyway why is expecting a reasonable grasp of it as a condition of settling in a country where it is the main language spoken such a problem?

    Surely enough is enough? - we are the most densely populated country in Europe. Its not about language or skin colour just numbers of people!

  • Comment number 68.

    If the vast population of this country were able to trace their ancestory quite a few of them might discover that they themselves came from foreign lands, and over the centuries either became the dominate influence or largely integrated with existing culture / religions / lifestyles. The operative word I'm using here is integrate, for sure its eaiser / safer to stay with ones own cultures / languages / beliefs etc. For sure young immigrants face pressure from families to stay within there own traditional groups, those that chose not to and fully adopt another choice can indeed find themselves being shunned by their own communities, difficult choices. There are certainly thousands of veteren immigrants in this country who have just the basic grasp of UK culture / language, but not the same when dealing with finances. All the other form filling and difficult bits etc are eased via interpretors.

  • Comment number 69.

    At 11:54am on 09 Jun 2010, Confuciousfred wrote:

    "Will we apply the same rules for students on visas?"

    Of course not - they are not moving here permanently. That's like asking if we should apply it to tourists. Surely you see there is a massive difference between a student coming here to study for a few years and then going home again and someone who is planning to live here for good.

    Also - what students do you know that come here to attend university and can't speak English?! Don't you think that would make actually studying in this country a bit difficult for them? Would be like me moving to France to study, getting to my first lecture then realising oh yeah - I don't speak French!

    "Also, if other countries imposed similar rules it would be a barrier to us exporting goods and services."

    Ummm - HOW exactly? You think we don't already export goods to countries that don't speak English? How you managed to turn a topic about ensuring people that move to this country on a permanent basis can speak English into problems with foreign trade is a total mystery.
    Sorry, but these jumped out as two very weak arguments. Essentially you are arguing against points that no one has made.

  • Comment number 70.

    1. At 11:38am on 09 Jun 2010, Go Away Gordon Brown wrote:

    How do you expect people to respect and contribute to our way of life and our communities and values if they can't speak our language?

    The rules should be extended to all migrants EU or otherwise.
    Definitely. No one should be allowed to buy a property in Spain, say, until fluent in Spanish or whatever.
    Interesting to see the BBC mention "integration". Is multiculturalism over now? Has the BBC made it official?

  • Comment number 71.

    This is all well & good, but wouldn't it also be a good idea to first get the indigenous population to speak English correctly? Teaching them to spell wouldn't go amiss, either.

  • Comment number 72.

    A great deal of public money is spent in Social Services on translators for people who cannot speak English. I think it is reasonable to expect people to learn our language when moving to our country. In times when money is tight in Social Services, I would be looking to make severe cuts in translation services.

  • Comment number 73.

    "#6. At 11:50am on 09 Jun 2010, ian cheese wrote:
    This is a little too late. The best citizens may not even speak English!"

    Complete nonsense.

    Are you by chance one of those self-loathing liberals who live in an imaginary land where all the indigenous Brits are 'knuckle dragging chavs' and all the 1st generation immigrants are brain surgeons who do positively oodles of charity work for underprivilaged/sick children in their spare time?

  • Comment number 74.

    The effect of this change is that applicants without the langauge skills will employ agents to "assist with the paper work..."

  • Comment number 75.

    Yes, I think immigrants should have to pass some basic English test. It's mainly for their own benefit. It really doesn't need to be any more than we'd expect from an 8-year-old child though.

  • Comment number 76.

    I myself have never understood why so many people in other countries who dislike Britain and wanted independence from Britain are so desperate to come to Britain.

    How hypocritical is that. The way that most foreigners talk you would think that the UK would be the last place that they would want to come to but that is clearly not the case.

    Nobody should be allowed to come to this country and settle without going through a strict process like they have in Australia.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think anyone who intends to be a UK citizen must prove that they have a sufficient command of english to hold a conversation. It's totally ridiculous that the fire service have to be issued cards with phonetic spellings of terms like "Get out of the building because it is on fire".

    I don't believe its unreasonable in any shape or form. I think for a United Kingdom we need to have all the citizens United in what it means to be a UK citizen. Speaking english is one of those things.

  • Comment number 78.

    At what stage will any English person looking to buy a property overseas be expected to demonstrate competence in the local language - French, Spanish or whatever. People who think immigrants should have a grasp of the language (which for the most part I agree with) must surely accept it reasonable that when we go and live overseas, we should observe the same courtesies.

  • Comment number 79.

    Re - "...coming to the UK from areas outside the EU, such as South Asia".

    English is very widely spoken in South Asia (India,Pakistan,etc) anyway.
    Which exposes this implied 'toughening' to be an empty gesture,I'd say.
    Being able to speak English is not a certificate of having pure motives.

  • Comment number 80.

    As long as Welsh is also accepted as a UK language. My girlfriend is from Venezuela but she is required to learn English even though we live in Wales. Her knowledge of Welsh is not accepted when it comes to immigration.

  • Comment number 81.

    Go Away Gordon Brown wrote: "The rules should be extended to all migrants EU or otherwise."

    And to the British wanting to marry in or stay in other European countries. THAT'll keep out the anti-E.U. right-whingers, who on the evidence of HYS can rarely write English correctly let alone Spanish, French, Italian, German and so on.

  • Comment number 82.

    The existing rules are very misinformed. The proposed new rules are equally misinformed. I am married to a Malaysian who had to take a ridiculous test of her English language skills to get a visa, and also had to take a British driving test to be able to drive a car. Malaysia is a commonwealth country so everyone speaks English fluently and they drive on the same side of the road as us. Yet I have met some EU people (namely from Poland and other eastern European countries) who can barely string a sentence together and drive on the opposite side of the road (and tend to drive on the opposite side of the road here too!) yet can freely come to the UK to find work with no restrictions and no need to take a British driving test. This I find ludicrous.

  • Comment number 83.

    "#14. At 11:54am on 09 Jun 2010, Rob wrote:
    Treating one race differently from another is always a cause of social unrest."

    While I appreciate the BBC have set you up a little with the comment 'The measures will apply to partners coming to the UK from areas outside the EU, such as South Asia.' you have lept on the 'race' issue.

    It will apply to those from Russia, USA, Switzerland and Norway too. The Gov. can't do much about the EU (well they could, but wont) but the rules would apply to all those from outside regardless of race.

    It's language and integration not race, put the card away.

  • Comment number 84.

    A good idea but a bit late, go to Southall in West London and you'll see what I mean.

  • Comment number 85.

    19. At 11:58am on 09 Jun 2010, HumanCashPoint wrote:
    I think this is a good idea, then you can get rid of all the non-job translator services being paid silly amounts of public money to explain the benefits system loopholes!!!

    Although it might be a little hypocritical to pick on language. How many non-English people can speak English as apposed to how many English speaking people can speak another language?

    Also, if they are coming to Wales, do they have to have a grasp on Welsh?


    Why not? Diolch yn fawr....

  • Comment number 86.

    "Should immigrants to any country have to prove they have a command of the language?"

    THE language? My advice to immigrants would be to learn Welsh, easier than English for one thing.

  • Comment number 87.

    For me, I think it is the UK'S idea of a clever way to reduce the number of immigrants into their country. Every country has the right to reduce the number of immigrants if she thinks their number is becoming threatening to their political and socio-cultural wellbeing.

  • Comment number 88.

    #1 said "How do you expect people to respect and contribute to our way of life and our communities and values if they can't speak our language?"

    That applies to a large percentage of our indigenous population.

  • Comment number 89.

    1. This won't do a thing to stop EU migrants. So British firms are still free to avoid advertising jobs in English, or insisting workers speak Polish for "health and safety" reasons.
    2. No one forces anyone to claim asylum here. There are 150 countries to choose from. Any number of which are closer, speak your language, but don't have a generous benefits system.
    3. You have to wonder how committed someone is to Britsh values when they are prepared to marry someone they have never met, from another country, who was probably forced into it.

  • Comment number 90.

    "#15. At 11:55am on 09 Jun 2010, pzero wrote:
    How can an open door be fair? Well not to the natives anyway, but our opinions are not what the Government want to hear!

    We live in a country where terrorists cannot be deported because of worries for their human rights - what about the human rights of their intended victims?

    As usual too little, too late! Bring out troops home and deal with the enemy within now!"

    All very interesting, but do you have a view on immigrants marrying UK citizens having to prove they have a command of English?

  • Comment number 91.

    Whilst in principle I agree with the introduction of the test I believe that it should be introduced to EU citizens as well. Coming from an English speaking country outside the EU I wish to, one day, marry my UK citizen boyfriend, however I find it frustrating that I would be required to complete this test. How is it that someone from a non English speaking country within the EU is not required to prove that they can speak English, but I do.
    This appears to be a running theme in the UK as when registering to work as a Nurse in the UK I was required to complete an English exam then, and only because I was not from the EU, depsite being born and raised in a English speaking country.
    The Government needs to make a blaket rule, otherwise what is the point?

  • Comment number 92.

    This country is about to undergo a massive cut back in government spending and a massive rise in taxes. All of us will suffer as a result of the problems with this country.

    The first cut must be for translation and other services (including education resources) provided for non-English speaking people living in this country.

    No one should be allowed to work here on a temporary visa or live permamently in this country without a good grasp of our language whether coming here due to marriage arrangements or for any other reason.

  • Comment number 93.

    I think its very fair. The key thing you have to have to be able to start integrating into a society is the ability to speak the language. Over and above the social niceties of being able to communicate, it is also harder to find a job and start contributing to the fabric of the nation. There also needs to be strict limits on the availablity of benefits and services if you have just arrived in the country and contributed nothing to the economy.

    And that doesn't apply just to people coming here - it applies to people from here moving abroad too. It sickens me to see these British ghettos in Spain that are full of Rose & Crown pubs and full english breakfasts and where people speak barely a word of Spanish. Most of these people pay no or little Spanish taxes but expect full access to healthcare etc.

    So in short - I agree with the princlples this Government are putting in place, but think that people leaving the UK should follow the same rules to prove that its nothing to do with racism or bigotry.

  • Comment number 94.

    This should be rolled out across the board in my opinion and should apply to everyone that wishes to settle in this country. In Holland, if you don't speak the language (or read) then you are going to have problems. I do not see why the Tax Payers of this country should fund a service that provides translators for those that will not make the effort to assimilate. You only have to walk into a doctors surgery to see how many notices/leaflets are published in foreign languages. Benefit Offices provide Translators and so does the legal system all at the expense of the Tax Payer, where else does this happen?

  • Comment number 95.

    It would seem sensible.

    I have had 18 year old students of overseas heritage who themselves are born in the UK and fluent English speakers but who have a parent, usually the mother, STILL incapable of communicating in English.

    I don't even go for a week's holiday somewhere without learning enough of the language to be polite (please, thank you, may I have... etc., go a long way!); and as my long-term plan is to retire to Greece in 10-15 years' time I am already making headway in Greek well beyond that.

    I can understand how a panicked asylum-seeker who may have had to do a runner with little notice from wherever he feels under threat may not have had time to learn any English, but if you are planning to marry someone who lives in the UK it would seem an obvious part of your preparations to learn at least a little English.

  • Comment number 96.

    14. At 11:54am on 09 Jun 2010, Rob wrote:
    Treating one race differently from another is always a cause of social unrest.

    Try getting work in Wales i you can't speak Welsh. They've even got laws (the Welsh Language Act) that legalises discrimination against another race.

  • Comment number 97.

    Immigrants coming to the UK to marry will need to prove that they have a good command of the English language. Sounds fair to me. It would be extremely hard for them to make a contribution to the country and their community and to integrate into society without being able to speak the language. And yes, if I were to emigrate to a foreign country, I would take great pains to learn the local language. I've no plans to emigrate though. It's not that bad here yet...

  • Comment number 98.

    "campaigners say the plans are discriminatory."

    Of course they would say that! They always say that! God forbid they should loose anything of the great "DISCRIMINATION" cash cow they have been milking (to the detriment of the indigenous population) for years. I am indigenous to these islands; my family has lived on this collection of islands since before records began.

    As a set of Islands, we are beyond maximum density as far as population is concerned and these measures (I would hope) are a small step toward greater restrictions against those wishing to come and live in the UK. I am not adverse to immigration on the whole, but when (as we are) verging on the ridiculous in terms of numbers then we have a problem.

    Personally I would hope the government will go further, not only to reduce the intake of people from overseas, but also to start bringing down the numbers of those already here through the repatriation of foreign unemployed and homeless, failed asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and foreign criminals, for a start.

    Just exactly where, if things continue, are my children, my children’s children etc supposed to live if the population continues to grow? A selfish attitude you might say, but I don’t care. Are we going to develop more green fields to accommodate everyone?

    I care not one little jot if you think my opinion is remotely racist, as no doubt some will (I am content that I am not a racist). Frankly that “ace up the sleeve” is a horse you have well and truly flogged!

    Its time to face reality here folks, these islands are full and we can take no more.

    I would also like to point out that I am aware of one English woman, who on two occasions married Gambian men and brought them to live here in the UK, both asked for divorces once they had secured their British Passports. One had even gotten engaged to and had a child with a Gambian woman here in the UK, aiming to marry her when his passport and divorce were secured.

    Enough is enough……

  • Comment number 99.

    Considering that English is the international language in many cases (pilots, scientists, etc) and this is the home country of this language, it is totally fair enough. On the other hand, every Brit who wants to move someplace sunny should imagine having to prove their ability to speak that language before moving there. The best way to learn is to be immersed, so maybe it would be helpful to have the following option for whoever doesn't pass the test: compulsory courses (paid for by the immigrant) which must be passed within a certain time period in order to be allowed to stay. This will also help arranged-marriage foreign brides to build a network of friends unrelated to the husband as support in case of coersion or domestic violence.

  • Comment number 100.

    I understand the need for immigrants to have a good grasp of English and also prove that we have skills that are lacking in this country.

    What I do not understand is why immigrants from EU can enter this country without needing to prove they can communicate in Enligh or have a good skill set.

    In this context, the current immigration laws are clearly unfair and discriminatory to people from outside the EU.

    Can someone tell me what is better for this country's economy? - An Asian (invariably entering as students and graduating from UK universities) with good engineering skills this country sorely lacks; or European immigrants who come to work in more menial jobs that add no value and can be done by out of work British citizens? If the answer is 'European', it is nothing but blatant dicsrimination.....sorry......

    If the current immigration rules towards legal non EU immigrants(I am excluding the immigrants who arrive illegally - they do not deserve to be here) keep getting tightened in the name of 'integration' and 'fairness', I am sorry to say the country will lose the real people who can help the British economy. Some of the best engineers and businessmen/employers in this Country are Asian.

    Food for thought- Think of Lakshmi Mittal.......


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