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The Life in the UK test has been around for a number of years, and is a requirement for anyone applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain or British Citizenship.

However, what happens if someone is unable to pass the test? Are there any exemptions? In this article, Waseem Nazir, discusses in detail the law and guidance relating to the Life in the UK test, the exemptions and provides an example of a case in which Batley Law have successfully argued an exemption for a client.

What is the Life in the UK Test?

The Life in the UK test is designed to test a person’s knowledge of life in the UK, and is based on British history, modern culture and values. The test is carried out under controlled conditions. You have 45 minutes to complete the Life in the UK test. The test involves answering 24 multiple choice questions on areas of British life, traditions, politics and customs.
The pass mark is 75%, or 18 correct answers.

What are the exemptions to the Life in the UK Test?

The Immigration Rules set out the following exemptions:

(a) the applicant is under 18 years of age at the date of his or her application, or

(b) the applicant is at least 65 years of age at the date of his or her application, or

(c) in all the circumstances of the case, the decision maker considers that, because of the applicant’s mental or physical condition, it would be unreasonable to expect the applicant to fulfil either or both parts of that requirement.

From the above, (a) and (b) are self-explanatory and straight-forward. However, in relation to (c), there is some debate as to what would be required to come within this exemption. We therefore discuss this in greater detail below.

Exemption because of physical or mental condition?

The Home Office has published its own guidance to case workers in relation to this, which says the following:

There is discretion to waive the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirement if, because of a person’s physical or mental condition, it would be unreasonable for them to meet it.

This is set out in:

  • Appendix KoLL of the Immigration Rules (for settlement applications)
  • paragraph 2(e) of Schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981 (for naturalisation applications)

When to exercise discretion

You must exercise discretion if the applicant:

  • is suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts their ability to learn English or prepare for the Life in the UK test
  • has a mental condition which prevents them from speaking or learning English to the required standard

Where a person provides evidence that they would be unable to satisfy one part of the requirement, it does not automatically mean that they will be unable to meet the second part of the requirement. It may be that their condition would make it unreasonable for them to prepare and complete the Life in the UK test but due to the different nature of how English language is assessed they are still able to demonstrate that they satisfy the English language requirement.

How to exercise discretion

You must consider how the condition would prevent the applicant from taking the Life in the UK test or learning English. For example, discretion may be appropriate where an applicant:

  • is deaf
  • is a person without speech
  • has a speech impediment which limits their ability to communicate in the relevant language

Each application must be considered on its own merits and will depend on the facts in each case including whether the applicant is a national of a majority English- speaking country.

Life in the UK test centres and many colleges can cater for a variety of disabilities, such as blindness. An applicant may be able to do the test even if they produce evidence of a disability.

You must also consider whether an applicant’s condition would prevent them from meeting both parts of the requirement or just one.

Evidence of physical or mental condition

Where a request for an exemption does not include a medical waiver proforma completed by a relevant medical practitioner you must provide the applicant with the opportunity to provide this unless the application falls to be refused on another ground.

Where an applicant fails to provide a completed waiver despite the document being requested, you must consider whether they satisfy the knowledge of English language and life in the UK requirements based on the information available. Any refusal must make it clear that they do not meet the language and/or life requirements and have not provided the specified evidence to be considered for a waiver from these requirements.

Therefore, if a potential applicant can show that they have a physical or mental disability, which is long term and as a result of this, it is unreasonable for them to have to sit the test, then there is a good chance they may come within an exemption.


Batley Law represented a client, whose application for ILR was refused because she had not passed the Life in the UK test. The client was unable to pass the test because of a mental health condition. The client was suffering from PTSD following some tragic events in her family life. As part of the application, a medical report from a Psychologist was commissioned and provided to the Home Office.

The Home Office refused the application, and instead of ILR granted further leave to remain.

Our team of immigration experts at Batley immediately began working on the case and prepared a judicial review application to challenge the decision of the Home Office. We argued that the Home Office decision was unlawful as the Home Office had failed to follow its own policy (above) and failed to take into account relevant medical evidence.

After the judicial review was lodged, a Judge granted permission. At this point, the Home Office agreed to withdraw the refusal decision and remake it. After some two months, we were delighted to see that the Home Office had now granted ILR to the client.

This came as a huge relief to the client, who had already been through difficult circumstances.

Waseem Nazir photo

By Waseem Nazir

Waseem Nazir is one of the specialist immigration lawyers at Batley Law. If you would like to speak to Waseem or any of our team, you can fill out our contact form and one of our team will be in touch.

The Law Society - Immigration & Asylum

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