Non-EU immigrants must sit tougher English exams

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In a measure which aims to follow UK policy and better ‘integrate’ migrants into British society, non-EEA nationals who are the ‘spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner’ of a Jersey resident need to take the ‘A2’ English language test after two and a half years in the Island.

The European Economic Area includes the 27 EU member states, as well as three other countries – Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The new regime was brought into effect by a ministerial decision signed off by assistant Home Affairs Minister Deidre Mezbourian.

A report accompanying her decision – which came into force yesterday – says that the changes would affect the ‘five-year family route’ to settlement for spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners.

Currently, an immigrant is entitled to buy property jointly with an ‘entitled’ spouse or civil partner after living for five years in the Island.

The States were unable to confirm at the time of writing whether this right would be lost, if the A2 test was failed, or why only non-EEA nationals would be affected by the new regime. A government spokesman said that the move was not prompted by Brexit and that the new regime was first announced in the UK by former Prime Minister David Cameron in January 2016.

‘The recent changes introducing the English language test to our legislation bring Jersey into line with the UK,’ the spokesman said.

‘These changes only affect non-EEA nationals who have immigration permission to be in Jersey as a spouse or partner. Any current residents in this category will now need to pass the A2 English Language test in order to apply for “further leave to remain”, normally after being in Jersey for two and a half years.

‘Successful applicants would then be eligible for “settlement” or “indefinite leave to remain”, following five years’ residency in Jersey.’

The spokesman was unable to confirm at the time of writing whether immigrants could be forced to leave the Island if they failed the test.

A UK government statement on the policy says: ‘The ability to speak and understand English is fundamental to successful integration into British society.

‘It gives migrants the means to participate in British life, helping them to find work, allowing them to support their children’s education and enabling them to fulfil their potential.’

Under the UK policy, exemption from taking the test can be applied for if the person is a national of a majority English-speaking country or was educated at degree-level in English.

Exemptions also apply for the over-65s, or if disability prevents someone from taking the test, or if there are other ‘exceptional circumstances’.

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