Integration & Values in Immigration

uk integration


The United Kingdom has long been a destination for people from around the world seeking new opportunities and a stable life.

The UK immigration system is structured to manage the flow and integration of foreign nationals, and central to this is the principle that foreign nationals should adhere to the legal stipulations of their visas and embrace the core values that define life in the UK.

Settling in the UK represents not just a change of scenery but a pivotal shift towards embracing a new culture and way of life. Understanding British values is integral to this transition, forming the foundation of successful integration into society. Integration is beneficial not only for those who have come to the UK, who can better their chances for a successful life and deepen connections in their new home, but also for the broader community, which gains from the diverse contributions and perspectives new residents bring.

For many foreign nationals, particularly those seeking settlement or citizenship, demonstrating a grasp of these values alongside proficiency in the English language is also a mandated part of the immigration process.

In this guide, we explore how the UK immigration system is designed to foster a well-integrated society and examine the roles both foreign nationals and policy play in achieving this essential goal.


Section A: The Concept of Integration


Integration is a fundamental concept for understanding the dynamics of immigration in the United Kingdom. It encompasses the process by which foreign nationals adapt to and become part of British society.

Integration goes beyond merely living within the host country; it refers to migrants actively engaging with the country’s customs, values, and community practices and contributing to its cultural, social, and economic life.

You can read more about the UK’s culture: traditions, history and way of life here >>

This brings benefits both to migrants and the host community. It ensures that newcomers can effectively participate in all aspects of British life, from employment and education to civic duties and social networking, leading to more successful and fulfilling lives in the UK while nurturing a cohesive and harmonious society.


1. What is ‘Integration’ in UK Society?


Integration in the context of UK society refers to the process by which migrants adapt to and become part of the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the country.

Integration involves more than just physical presence; it encompasses the adoption of UK values, active participation in community life, and contribution to the local economy.

Importantly, successful integration is a two-way street: it requires adjustment both by the foreign nationals and the host society, which must be open to embracing new cultures and perspectives while maintaining a cohesive national identity.


2. The Role of Integration in UK Society


Integration is crucial for fostering a cohesive and harmonious community. It helps prevent the isolation of migrant groups and reduces social tensions by promoting understanding and mutual respect among diverse populations.

Effective integration facilitates the sharing of common values and responsibilities, which is essential for the smooth functioning of society and the strengthening of democracy.

Research has consistently shown that when migrants feel welcomed and valued, they are more likely to contribute positively to the community, enhancing social cohesion and collective well-being.


3. Examples of Successful Integration Practices


Facilitating successful integration of migrants into UK society requires a multifaceted approach, with proactive efforts on the part of key stakeholders such as communities, local governments, and private organisations.

Several initiatives across the UK have highlighted successful integration practices:


a. Community Mentorship Programmes


These programs connect new migrants with established residents who share similar backgrounds. Mentors help newcomers navigate the complexities of daily life in the UK, from accessing public services to understanding local customs.


b. Cultural Exchange Festivals


Towns and cities often host festivals that celebrate the diverse cultures of their residents. These events not only allow migrants to showcase their heritage but also engage the broader community, fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures.


c. Language and Civic Education Classes


Local councils and non-profit organisations frequently offer free or subsidised English language and civic education classes to help migrants integrate effectively. These classes are crucial for enabling migrants to gain employment, interact with their neighbours, and participate in local governance.


d. Workplace Integration Initiatives


Some British companies have instituted programs aimed at integrating foreign workers seamlessly into their workforce. These include language support, diversity training for all employees, and celebration of international holidays, which help build an inclusive work environment.


Section B: UK Values and Their Importance


Understanding and embracing UK values is pivotal for anyone looking to integrate and thrive within British society. These values form the bedrock of daily life and governance in the UK, but not just as abstract concepts; they are actively practised and reflected in the country’s institutions, legal frameworks, and community interactions.

Adherence to these values by foreign nationals is essential for the collective well-being of the nation, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background, can contribute to and benefit from British society in a meaningful way.


1. Core UK Values for Integration


The core values of the UK that immigrants are expected to adopt encompass a broad set of principles that guide daily life and societal interactions. These include:


a. Respect for Democracy and the Rule of Law

Foreign nationals are encouraged to understand and respect the mechanisms of British democracy and the importance of abiding by the laws that govern the country.


b. Tolerance and Mutual Respect

The UK is known for its cultural diversity, and a key value is the respect for different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. Tolerance ensures that all individuals feel valued and understood within their communities.


c. Individual Liberty

The rights to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and freedom from undue governmental interference are enshrined both in UK law and values. Every person, from native citizens to foreign-born nationals, is expected to uphold these liberties while respecting the rights of others.


d. Equality

Emphasis is placed on the importance of treating everyone equally, irrespective of their race, gender, sexuality, or any other characteristic. This equality extends to opportunities before the law and in social interactions.


2. UK Values Underpinning Societal Norms and Legal Frameworks


UK values are deeply embedded in the country’s legal and social frameworks. For example, the Human Rights Act 1998 encapsulates principles such as respect for private and family life, freedom of expression, and the prohibition of discrimination, mirroring the core values.

These values guide public policies and legislation, ensuring that governance is not only fair but also inclusive. In education, schools are required to teach these fundamental values, reflecting their incorporation into the fabric of societal upbringing and community interaction.


3. The Impact of Values on Everyday Interactions


In daily life, these values influence how individuals interact with each other and with institutions. For instance, tolerance and mutual respect contribute to a peaceful coexistence among people of diverse backgrounds, promoting social harmony.

Respect for individual liberties allows people to express themselves freely, fostering a vibrant, dynamic society where innovation and diversity are celebrated.

Equality ensures that all residents, regardless of their origin, have access to the same opportunities, which is crucial for the integration and acceptance of immigrants. This egalitarian approach helps build trust between migrants and the native population, facilitating smoother integration and greater acceptance in community life.


Section C: Integration and Values within UK Visa and Citizenship Requirements


The UK immigration system plays a crucial role in ensuring that integration and adherence to British values are central components of the migrant experience.

Through specific criteria and requirements that promote these objectives, the system seeks to prepare new arrivals for a successful life in the UK, emphasising not just the legal aspects of migration but also the social and cultural integration.


1. Immigration Categories Emphasising Integration


a. Settlement Visas

These include visas for spouses, fiancés, proposed civil partners, unmarried partners, and dependent children or parents. Applicants must prove they have a genuine and subsisting relationship with a person who is already settled in the UK.

This category emphasises integration by requiring applicants to demonstrate knowledge of English, ensuring they can participate fully in UK society.


b. Spouse Visas

To obtain a spouse visa, the applicant must show they can communicate in English at an appropriate level and that they intend to live permanently with their partner in the UK. The requirement to renew the visa every 2.5 years before gaining indefinite leave to remain ensures ongoing integration efforts.


c. Family Visas

The UK immigration system includes specific provisions for family reunification, acknowledging the importance of support networks in facilitating smoother integration. By allowing close family members to live together, the system supports the social stability necessary for immigrants to establish themselves and contribute positively to their communities.

Visas are available for those joining family members for a long-term stay or permanently in the UK. Family visa applicants must, however, meet English language requirements and, in some cases, prove their knowledge of life in the UK.


2. British Citizenship Requirements


For citizenship, the requirements emphasise both the knowledge of English (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic) and a broader understanding of British life and culture:


a. Language Proficiency

Applicants must prove they can communicate in English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic. This involves passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, which assesses speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.


b. Life in the UK Test

This is a computer-based test comprising questions on British traditions, history, laws, and the functioning of society. It is required for those seeking naturalisation and serves as a measure of an applicant’s willingness and ability to integrate fully into UK society.


3. Case Studies

The following case studies illustrate the value and significance of integration for foreign-born nationals coming to the UK.


Case Study 1: John from Nigeria

John applied for a spouse visa to join his wife in the UK. He prepared for his application by taking English language classes offered by a local community centre.

After passing his SELT, he moved to the UK and took part in community integration programs, such as local sports clubs and volunteer organisations, to better understand and adopt UK cultural norms.


Case Study 2: Ana from Brazil

After living in the UK on a work visa, Ana applied for indefinite leave to remain. She studied for the Life in the UK test by attending workshops organised by a local immigrant support group, which helped her understand British history and the details of the political system.

Her successful integration was also supported by her active involvement in her children’s school activities and local community events.


Section D: English Language Proficiency


Under UK immigration rules, English language requirements apply across various immigration categories, designed to support integration by setting standards for better communication and interaction within the community.

Proficiency in English is seen not just as a skill for personal advantage but as a vital tool for full participation in British life, from accessing services and employment to engaging in community dialogues and local governance.


1. Importance of English Language Skills in Integration


English language proficiency is crucial for effective integration into the UK. On a day to day basis, the ability to speak and understand English helps individuals to communicate effectively in situations, access services, engage with the community, and gain employment.

On a more general level, English language proficiency helps foreign-born nationals participate fully in society, from understanding their rights and responsibilities to building social connections and support networks.


2. English Language Requirements for Various Visa Categories


English language proficiency is a mandatory requirement for many UK visa routes. As part of the application process, most applicants must prove they meet a specific standard when reading, writing and speaking English.

The specific criteria vary by visa route. Examples include:


a. Family Route (Spouse/Partner/Fiancé(e) Visas): Applicants must prove their knowledge of English by passing a speaking and listening test at CEFR level A1 for an initial visa application for entry clearance and level A2 for further leave to remain.


b. Work Visas (Skilled Worker, Health and Care Worker): These typically require higher levels of English proficiency. Applicants need to demonstrate B1 level English in speaking, listening, reading, and writing according to the CEFR scale.


c. UK Settlement and Citizenship: The requirement for most applicants for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship is to demonstrate English language proficiency at B1 CEFR or higher, as well as pass the Life in the UK test.


d. Student Visas: English proficiency requirements vary depending on the course and institution but are generally required to be at a B2 level for degree-level studies.


3. Resources and Tips to Improve Your English Skills


To meet the required standard for your visa route, you may need to be proactive in improving your English language skills. Many different resources and learning options are available to choose the approach that best suits your needs and learning preferences:


a. Online Learning Platforms: Websites like Duolingo, BBC Learning English, and British Council have interactive lessons and resources tailored to different levels of English learners.


b. Practice with Peers and Family: Regularly speaking English at home or with friends helps reinforce learning.


c. English Language Content: Watching English TV shows, listening to English music, and reading books or newspapers in English can improve comprehension and vocabulary in a more engaging and less formal setting.


d. Local Language Classes: Many community centres, churches, and schools offer English classes at low or no cost. These classes can also be a great way to meet other people in the community who are in a similar situation.


e. Language Exchange Meetups: Participating in language exchange meetups can provide practice opportunities with native speakers and help immigrants understand colloquial phrases and cultural nuances.


f. Mobile Apps and Podcasts: Apps like Babbel, Rosetta Stone, and podcasts aimed at English learners can be a convenient way for migrants to improve their English on the go.


Section E: The Life in the UK Test


One of the key mechanisms within the UK immigration system fostering integration is the Life in the UK test, a mandatory exam that covers British history, culture, government, and values.

This test ensures that all migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain or citizenship have a basic understanding of what it means to be a resident of the UK, including an appreciation for values such as democracy, the rule of law, and mutual respect among diverse communities.

To read more about the Life in the UK test see here >>


1. What is the Life in the UK Test?


The Life in the UK test is a mandatory exam for UK settlement and citizenship applicants, covering British history, culture, and values.

It’s an online test consisting of 24 multiple-choice questions, which must be completed within 45 minutes. Questions are taken from the official handbook “Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents,” covering subjects such as the British political system, significant historical events, cultural contributions, and everyday practicalities of living in the UK.

It costs £50 to sit the test. You have to pass the Life in the UK Test to be able to proceed with your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or naturalisation as a British citizen.

Passing this test is crucial not only for meeting legal residency requirements but also for fostering a sense of belonging and commitment to British values and culture.


2. What does the Life in the UK Test Cover?


The Life in the UK test covers a wide range of topics that are essential for understanding the functioning of British society. The key areas include:


a. History: From the Stone Age through the Roman invasion, up to the modern era, including significant events such as the two World Wars and the formation of the United Kingdom.

b. Society: Structure of the British society, including information about the UK’s educational system, health services (like the NHS), and other public services.

c. Government and Law: The role and powers of the monarch, the structure of Parliament, the electoral system, and the judicial system.

d. Values and Principles: Fundamental principles such as democracy, rule of law, tolerance, and participation in community life.

e. Everyday Life: Practical knowledge about daily life in the UK, including public holidays, how to access emergency services, and understanding the systems of banking and local governance.


3. How to Prepare for the Life in the UK Test


Preparing for the Life in the UK test can be daunting, but there are numerous resources available to help:


a. Official Study Materials: Ensure you use the latest version of the official Life in the UK handbook, as this is where the test questions are taken from. You can access the guide here:

b. Practice Tests: Numerous online platforms offer free practice tests that mimic the format of the actual test. These can be invaluable for understanding the layout of the questions and for time management.

c. Study Courses: Some educational centres and community organisations offer courses specifically designed to prepare applicants for the Life in the UK test. These courses can provide structured learning and additional support, often from instructors who specialise in teaching immigrants.

d. Study Groups: Joining a study group can help with motivation and provide insights through discussion. Learning in a group setting can also help clarify complex topics through shared understanding.

e. Apps and Online Videos: Several mobile apps and online video tutorials offer convenient ways to study on the go. These resources often include summaries of the handbook and quizzes to test knowledge.


Section F: UK Integration Challenges and Support Systems


1. Common Challenges of Integrating into British Society


a. Language Barrier

One of the most significant challenges is the language barrier. Limited English proficiency can hinder an individual’s ability to secure employment, access healthcare, and interact effectively with others in the community.


b. Cultural Differences

Understanding and adapting to the customs and social norms of the UK can be daunting for foreign nationals who may come from vastly different cultural backgrounds. This can lead to feelings of isolation and alienation.


c. Employment Issues

Foreign nationals often face challenges in finding suitable employment. Recognition of foreign qualifications can be a hurdle, as well as discrimination or lack of awareness about the legal rights of migrant workers.


d. Access to Services

Navigating the healthcare, education, and housing systems in the UK can be complex, especially for those who are unfamiliar with how these systems work.


e. Social Integration

Building a new social network can be challenging, particularly for those who may not have family or friends in the country. This can impact mental health and overall well-being.


2. Integration Support for Foreign Nationals


Help is available for foreign nationals to better overcome the challenges of integrating into British society.


a. Community Programmes

Many local charities and non-profit organisations run programs aimed at helping migrants integrate into their new environment. These programs include language classes, employment workshops, and cultural orientation sessions. For example, the Migrant Support and Community Engagement program offers tailored support to improve integration and foster community cohesion.


b. Government Initiatives

The UK government provides several initiatives designed to support migrants. This includes the provision of free NHS healthcare for refugees and asylum seekers and various integration loans and grants to help with the costs of settling in, such as the Refugee Integration Loan.


c. Online Resources

There are numerous online platforms that provide resources for learning English, understanding UK laws, and connecting with local services. Websites like Citizens Advice offer free advice on a range of issues, from housing and employment to legal rights.


d. Educational Support

Educational institutions often have special provisions for helping international students and migrant children integrate into the school system. This includes language support and culturally sensitive pedagogy to facilitate an inclusive learning environment.


e. Legal Assistance

Organisations such as the Refugee Council or the UK Council for International Student Affairs provide legal advice and support to migrants on issues ranging from visa applications to rights and entitlements.


f. Cultural and Religious Organisations

These groups play a critical role in helping migrants maintain a sense of identity and belonging. They often offer social events, language support, and bridges to larger community networks.


g. Social Media and Community Groups

Social media platforms and community forums can be a great way for migrants to connect with others who are in similar situations. These platforms can provide emotional support, advice, and friendship, all of which are crucial during the integration process.


Section G: Summary


Integrating into the UK is typically a profound journey that weaves the lives of foreign-born nationals within the fabric of British society.

Integration is not simply a requirement but a cornerstone for building a successful, vibrant community that values diversity and mutual respect. Societal harmony is the foundation upon which communities grow and thrive, supported by a mutual understanding between new arrivals and native residents. This harmony is achieved through shared experiences, dialogue, and a collective adherence to the values that define the UK.

For migrants, understanding and embracing these values not only eases their transition but also enriches the communities they join. It ensures that the contributions of every individual are valued and that diversity is seen not as a challenge but as an asset.

The UK immigration system plays a critical role in facilitating a structured yet compassionate approach to promoting shared common values and participation in community life. As we look to the future, it is imperative for both policy-makers and community leaders to continue enhancing the support systems that facilitate this integration process and ensure that the UK remains a home of diversity and unity in an ever-changing world.


Section H: Frequently Asked Questions on Integration and Values in the UK


What is the Life in the UK test, and why is it important?

The Life in the UK test is a mandatory requirement for those applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or British citizenship. It covers topics such as British values, history, traditions, and the structure of government. The test ensures that applicants have a good understanding of British society and are prepared to participate fully in it.


Are there specific English language requirements for UK visas?

Yes, most visa categories require applicants to meet certain English language proficiency levels. The required level varies depending on the visa type, such as A1 for initial family route visas, B1 for citizenship and indefinite leave to remain, and B2 for most Tier 2 work visas.


How can foreign nationals improve their English language skills before arriving in the UK?

Prospective migrants can use online platforms like the British Council or mobile apps such as Duolingo to improve their English. Local education centres in their home country might also offer English language courses specifically designed for UK immigration.


What are some common challenges migrants face when integrating into UK society?

Foreign nationals often face challenges such as language barriers, cultural differences, finding employment, accessing public services, and building a new social network.


What support systems are available to help foreign nationals integrate into the UK?

The UK offers various support systems, including community integration programs, language classes, legal assistance through organisations like the Refugee Council, and social initiatives that facilitate cultural exchange.


How can foreign nationals participate in their local communities to aid integration?

Foreign nationals can participate in local events, volunteer with local charities, join clubs or societies that reflect their interests, and engage in community centres offering activities that foster community spirit.


What is required from foreign nationals under the family visa category in terms of integration?

Migrants under the family visa category are required to demonstrate English language proficiency and, depending on the length of their stay, may also need to pass the Life in the UK test. Active participation in community life is also encouraged to aid integration.


How long does it take to prepare for the Life in the UK test?

The preparation time can vary based on the individual’s proficiency in English and familiarity with the UK’s culture and history. Generally, a few months of study is recommended, using resources like the official handbook and practice tests.


Can foreign nationals bring their cultural practices and traditions to the UK?

Yes, the UK values cultural diversity and encourages foreign nationals to share their cultural heritage. This enriches the multicultural tapestry of the UK and helps promote mutual understanding and respect.


What are the benefits of successfully integrating into UK society for migrants?

Successful integration helps foreign nationals secure better job opportunities, develop meaningful relationships, participate more fully in community life, and contribute positively to society, enhancing their overall well-being and sense of belonging.


Section I: Glossary


Asylum Seeker: A person who has fled their home country and seeks sanctuary in another country, applying for the right to be recognised as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance.

British Citizenship: The status of being a citizen of the UK, which includes the right to vote, work, and live permanently in the country, and is granted after meeting specific residency and good character requirements.

CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages): An international standard for describing language ability on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

Cultural Integration: The process by which migrants adopt and adapt to the cultural norms and values of the host country while also contributing elements of their own culture to the society.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): Permission to stay in the UK permanently without any time restrictions, granted to individuals after they have lived legally in the country for a certain period, typically five years.

Integration: The process by which immigrants become accepted into society, both as individuals and as groups. It refers primarily to mutual adaptation between an immigrant and the receiving society.

Life in the UK Test: A mandatory test for those seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK or naturalisation as a British citizen. The test covers various aspects of British life, laws, history, and culture.

Naturalisation: The legal process by which a non-British citizen may become a British citizen, typically requiring a demonstrated period of residence and knowledge of English and Life in the UK.

Refugee: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster and has been granted refugee status by the destination country.

SELT (Secure English Language Test): An approved English language test that provides proof of English language proficiency for visa and immigration purposes.

Settlement: The process of a migrant gaining permanent residency in the UK, often leading to British citizenship.

Visa: A document that allows the bearer to enter or leave the territory for which it was issued. Types of visas include work, student, family, and visitor visas, each with specific conditions and requirements.


Section J: Additional Resources


GOV.UK – Immigration and Visas

This is the official UK government website providing detailed and up-to-date information on visa types, requirements, application procedures, and policies regarding immigration to the UK.


The British Council – Learn English

The British Council offers a range of English learning resources, including games, apps, videos, and stories, to help improve English language skills, which are crucial for successful integration into the UK.


The Refugee Council

This organisation offers advice and support for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, including help with integration into British society, legal advice, and psychological support.


Citizens Advice

Provides free, confidential information and advice to assist people with legal, debt, consumer, housing, and other problems. This site is particularly useful for understanding the rights and responsibilities within the UK.


UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

UKCISA offers guidance and information to international students studying in the UK, covering topics from visas and immigration to working during and after studies.


National Health Service (NHS)

Healthcare for Immigrants

The NHS provides comprehensive information about health services available to non-UK residents, including how to access healthcare and entitlements.


Life in the UK Test

An informative resource for understanding the Life in the UK test, including study guides and practice questions.




Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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