Firstly, it is the 'wrong October' - the new level, B1, is proposed to come in force from next October - October 2013. Until then the rules remain the same as now - A1 level in Speaking and Listening.
Proposed change - from October 2013 - is for those spouses/partners who are applying for settlement in the UK.
The problem (and confusion) here is a word 'settlement'. It has 2 different meanings of 'settlement' when applying for UK visas for spouses and partners.
Meaning 1: When applying from outside the UK 'settlement' visa means a visa which allows to come to the UK 'with the view of settlement'. In other words, for good, to settle, to stay here and not expected to leave the UK (unless voluntarily). This applies to those applying for a Spouse, Partner and Fiancee visas outside the UK. So, a visa is for a limited period of time (not a permanent visa) but it says 'Settlement'.
For example, 'Settlement, husband of Sally Smith' and valid for 2 years 9 months. This is not a permanent visa, it is for 2 years 9 months, but it is a visa which would lead to settlement in the future (the applicant is not expected to return to his/her own country after 2 years, unless voluntarily).
In such cases level of English needed is A1 in Speaking and Listening and there are no proposals to change it (correct at the date of this posting).
Current list of acceptable English language tests can be found on the UKBA website.
Meaning 2: When applying inside the UK 'settlement' means permanent residency, called an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), on SET (M) form.
This is achieved either after 2 years on Spouse/Partner visas (under the Rules before 9 July 2012) or after 5 years under the Rules from 9 July 2012.
This 'settlement' would be a permanent visa, not for 2 or 3 years etc but 'Indefinite', ie 'forever'. An 'Indefinite' stamp does not expire when passport expires. Actually, from 29 Feb 2012 an ILR is on a card (not stamp in passport) and the card is for 10 years. What happens after 10 years is yet unknown because the first ILR cards will expire in 2022. The point it that 'settlement' here means permanent residency' and not a Spouse/partner visa.
The proposed change to B1 is for this group (under meaning 2). Plus Knowledge of Life in The UK. It can be achieved by 2 ways at the moment: either a Life in The UK Test (which is already in English) or ESOL with Citizenship course. It cannot be achieved by passing just an English test because of Knowledge of Life component.
There are no current proposals to change a Life in The UK Test but with ESOL with Citizenship course we assume it would mean a higher level of English tuition. Or an English language test at B1 level in addition to The Life in The UK Test, not clear at the moment whether 2 tests will be required (or 1 as at the moment).
We will keep you posted if the above changes in 2013.
For more detailed advice or for an application contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or visitwww.1st4immigration.com