Spouse language skills to form key plank of revised migrant scheme

Husbands and wives of work visa applicants will have to prove their English language skills under plans unveiled by the government yesterday.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith announced that foreigners applying for spouse visas will have to undergo language tests.

She also said that criminals with unspent convictions will be refused entry, while the age at which people can come to the UK for marriage will be raised from 18 to 21.

The government is revamping the UK’s migration system, introducing a tougher, points-based scheme. This will be introduced in five stages over the next 18 months.

A date for the introduction of the first stage, called ‘Tier 1’ and concerning highly skilled migrant visas, is yet to be set – although Smith yesterday promised it would be before the end of March 2008.

She said: “Migration brings great social and economic benefits to this country. But people expect it to be managed robustly and in support of Britain’s national interests.

“That’s why we’re launching the countdown to our new points-based system, which will begin in less than 100 days.”

Tier 1 will replace eight existing immigration routes for people who are highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, investors, or have undertaken high-level studies.

Applicants will earn points for their skills as well as the potential they show for economic success, their competence in English language and their ability to support themselves and their dependants.

Full details of how Tier 1 will work are available at online.

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