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British Citizenship English Test (What’s Involved?)

When you are applying for UK citizenship you need to fulfil certain criteria. Part of this will be proving you meet the necessary standard of knowledge of the English language, which may require you to pass the British citizenship English test.

Do you need to take the British citizenship English language test? 

If you are aged between 18 and 65 and are applying to naturalise as a British citizen, you will in most cases need to evidence your knowledge of the English language by:

  • Being a national of a majority English-speaking country, or
  • Having a degree that was taught or researched in English, or
  • Having a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

It will be important to ensure you are relying on an acceptable form of evidence to prove your language ability. Failure to do so can result in your application being refused for not satisfying the language requirement.
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Nationals of English-speaking countries 

Nationals from certain countries are exempt from taking the test, including Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, Ireland (for citizenship only), St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the USA.

Degree in taught or researched in English

If you hold a degree from a UK university you will need to provide your degree certificate. If it is not from a UK institution you will need to provide your degree certificate and an Academic Qualification Proficiency Statement that states the degree was delivered in the English language.

Speaking and listening qualification in English

If you cannot otherwise evidence your language ability, you will need to take the language test by a Home Office approved Secure English Language Testing (SELT) provider in order to make your citizenship application.

You will need to sit a test that assesses your speaking and listening abilities, known as the GESE and Life Skills tests, at either the Trinity College London or IELTS SELT Consortium test at level B1.

Only tests taken at an approved test centre are acceptable and the tests must be approved by UKVI for SELT. These are qualifications covering speaking and listening at B1 or above from the SELT list published on the Home Office website. English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) qualifications will only be accepted if published on the list. You cannot use other qualifications, for example GCSEs, A levels or National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs).

If you are applying to naturalise and have already passed the English language requirement on the basis of a B1 level qualification as part of your ILR application, you will not need to evidence your language ability again, whether or not the original qualification is on the current SELT list. However, you will need to pass the Life in the UK test if you have not already done so.

You will need to take identification with you to the test centre, which has to be either a valid passport or travel document, a valid EU Identity Card or a valid biometric residence card. No other form of identification will be accepted for you to take the test.

If you pass the test, you must use the unique reference number (URN) given to you to verify the result on the test provider’s online verification system. You will then provide the details of your language test result together with the confirmation of the results from your Life in the UK test to the Home Office as part of your application.

Exemptions to the British citizenship English language requirement

Some individuals may be exempt from the English language requirement altogether.

If you are aged under 18 or 65 or over, you do not need to take the English language or life in the UK tests. This must be evidenced by a passport, EEA identity card for naturalisation applications or birth certificate.

If you have a long-term physical or mental condition you may also be exempt. To qualify for the exemption, your condition must permanently preclude you from studying or taking the test. This could be due to a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend the classes and tests, or you must have a mental disability that means you cannot learn another language.

In all cases of medical exemptions, you will need comprehensive evidence from a doctor or medical practitioner to verify your disability.

The Life in the UK Test

The Life in the UK test, together with the English language requirement, form what is known as the Knowledge of Language and Life (KoLL) in the UK requirement for citizenship applications.

Passing the Life in the UK test is compulsory for most people applying for naturalisation as a British citizen.

The test comprises questions about life in the UK, including customs and traditions, history of the UK and the laws and political systems of the country. You will need to prepare for the test in order to pass it. 

There is an official handbook that the government advise you to study prior to the test called ‘Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide For New Residents’ and an app you can download to prepare for the test. 

The questions you will be asked are multiple choice and the questions are not published anywhere so you cannot see them in advance. There are official practice tests you can complete online to help with your preparation. You will have 45 minutes to answer 24 questions and you will need 75% or more to pass. 

The only place you can book a Life in the UK Test is through the UK Government website. Your test must be booked at least 3 days in advance of the date you want to take it and it will cost £50. Across the country, there are more than 30 test centres and you must choose one near to where you live. Proof of your address will be needed when you attend the test centre. To book a test you will need an email address, accepted official ID and a debit or credit card for payment.

When you arrive at the test centre you will need to show the same ID you used to book the test online and also proof of address that has your name and postcode included. Acceptable forms of proof address include council tax bills, utility bills or a UK photocard driving licence. If you fail to show the correct documents you won’t be able to sit the test and will not receive a refund of the test fee. 

If you get 75% or more and pass the test you will receive a pass notification letter and this must be sent with your citizenship or settlement application as proof you have passed. This letter must be kept safe as you cannot get a replacement letter. If you lose the letter you must write to the Home Office stating this when you apply for citizenship or settlement application. 

If you score less than 75% on the test you will need to wait at least 7 days before you can sit the test again. You can take the test as many times as you like but you will need to go through the booking process again and pay for the test each time.

Do you need advice about British citizenship English language test?

If you have a question about your settlement or British citizenship application, we can help. UK nationality rules are complex and given the effort required to make the application and the level of Home Office fees, it is important you proceed with your application fully prepared and compliant with the rules. For advice and support through the Home Office application process, contact us.

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