People coming to the UK on a spouse visa from October this year will be required to show they have improved their English within two and a half years, or they could be deported.
The controversial move toughens up the language requirement that currently expects people arriving in the UK on a five-year spouse visa to have an understanding of ‘basic’ English.
Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC Radio 4: "We’re now going to toughen up so half-way through the spousal settlement programme – two and a half years – there’ll be another opportunity to make sure your English is improving.
“You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to stay if you’re not improving your language. It is tough but people coming to our country have responsibility too.”
Mr Cameron said that the policy was aimed at Muslim men who kept women at home unable to speak English. He said this was “not acceptable” and described it as segregation which was not in tune with British values.
The Prime Minister admitted that the changes could see families torn apart. He said there were no guarantees that women who came to Britain and had children with their UK citizen husbands would not be deported if they could not speak English adequately at the end of the two and a half year period.
The policy came under fire from Baroness Warsi. The former Tory party chair, who was the first Conservative Muslim Cabinet Minister, said: “For us to singularly point out that British Muslim women don't speak English and that therefore leads directly to radicalisation, and therefore only they should be taught English, is a very odd way of pursuing an integrated approach to community cohesion.”
She also tweeted that her own mother’s English “isn’t great”, yet her daughters had become a lawyer, teacher, accountant, pharmacist and a cabinet minister.