A High Court judge in Birmingham has dismissed a legal challenge to a new immigration rule requiring people to be able to speak English before coming to the UK to live with their spouse.
Mr Justice Beatson said the new “pre-entry” English language test announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in June 2010 did not interfere with the human rights of three couples who brought the challenge.
In his judgment, handed down at the High Court in Birmingham, Mr Justice Beatson said the new requirement was not a disproportionate interference with family life.
The claimants’ lawyers launched the judicial review in the High Court, arguing that the rule contravened the right to a family life and the right to marry under the European Convention on Human Rights.
British citizen Rashida Chapti, 54, and her 57-year-old husband Vali Chapti were one of three named claimants in the case. The couple have been married for 37 years and have six children together but Mr Chapti, an Indian national who does not speak, read or write English, cannot move to the UK under the new immigration rule.
The challenge to the rule also claimed the language requirement was unlawful and constituted discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality. A tribunal ruled that Mr Chapti should not be given a spouse visa because it had not been established that his wife could maintain him from her income. The first-tier tribunal also rejected Mr Chapti due to his age, lack of skill and English language ability, as well as his poor employment prospects.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Beatson said the new rule did not interfere with the claimants’ right to marriage and was legitimate in its aim of protecting public services and promoting integration. The judge stated: “Taking into account all the material before the court, in particular the exceptions to it, the new rule is not a disproportionate interference with family life and is justified.”
Dismissing claims that the rule was discriminatory because it did not apply to migrants from some English-speaking countries, the judge added: “The exemptions based on nationality are not direct discrimination based on nationality. This is because the ‘bright line’ drawn between countries to be considered to be ‘English-speaking countries’ and those which are not is a rational one. The new rule does not indirectly discriminate on the ground of nationality, ethnic origins or disability.”
Commenting on the ruling, Hina Majid, legal policy director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “No one in their right mind would pretend that learning English is not a good thing for immigrants in the UK to do. This ruling, however, will mean that many British citizens will continue to experience enforced and indefinite separation from loved ones, partners, and in some cases, their children.
“It is already a legal requirement that partners and spouses must demonstrate linguistic skills shortly after arrival in the UK. In countries experiencing conflict, poverty, natural disasters, and political instability, it can however be extremely difficult to acquire linguistic skills prior to arrival in the UK.”