On 29th November 2010 it became a requirement of the settlement visa to satisfy a level of English to at least A1 level.
This has been the cause of much frustration for myself and many others over the past few months. Until around March this year there was a list of approved test providers available on the UKBA website, and also a list of test providers located within Thailand on the VFS Thailand website. At the end of March '11, one month before I was due to fly to Thailand, I booked an English test for Janny to take whilst I was there with her through one of the test providers on the VFS list. Within a day of booking that test I received an email stating that the test provider had been removed from the list and they were cancelling all appointments. I then looked to the UKBA for an explanation and the only information being given stated that a review of the test providers was being conducted and would be published at some point in April. For a period there was no further info being published by the UKBA or any advice on offer for the interim period. This effectively stopped me from being able to make any other arrangements for booking a new test and also stopped me from making any travel plans to Bangkok where most of the test providers are located.
With only vague information coming out of the UKBA (as ever), I started contacting some of the test providers on the existing list to ask whether they could confirm if they were to be included on the new list. I received a few replies but the most confident was from a company called Vantage-Siam. They advised that as an agent for Cambridge they were very confident of being included on the list. One requirement of the new approved providers was to have test center's in a minimum number of countries and to provide a certain amount of tests each year, which Cambridge do. I decide to take a small risk and book a test through Vantage rather than waiting around for the new list to be published. This meant that we could book flights to Bangkok and hotels etc. Cost of the test was 5600baht
The test which Janny took through Vantage was the Cambridge BULATS. The test is actually a business language test but only a low level is actually required to meet the A1 standard. The test consisted of two parts. An online computer based test CBT and also a speaking test. The Computer test is what they call "adaptive", meaning that each question is decided by how the previous one was answered. If several questions are answered incorrectly the level drops, or goes up a level if answered correctly. This then gives an overall score to determine the applicants level. For the speaking test Janny was asked to talk about where she was from and what her job involved. She was then asked to elaborate more and was asked things like what she liked about her job etc.
We waited around a week to receive the test certificates, which we arranged to have posted back to Phuket. Janny's score for the two test was A1 & B1 so more than suffiecient to satisfy the visa requirements. Janny was so proud of herself, as was I. She had worried for weeks about having to do an English test and was so relieved to finally have it in the bag.
There has since been a new approved list of test providers published by the UKBA and also some guidance for the interim period. Basically anyone that has a existing test certificate from a test providers on the old list, will still be accepted for applications made before 17th July 2011. All applications made after 18th July (like Janny's will be) must provide test certificates issued by a provider on the new list.