LONDON — Love may have its own language — but that's not good enough for the British government.

It wants English, too.

Starting this fall, the spouse of a citizen who is coming from outside the European Union and wants to live in Britain will have to prove he or she has a basic command of English.

The move, announced Wednesday by the new Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron, comes as countries across Europe tighten their rules on immigration amid rising unemployment rates and concerns about the ability of newcomers to integrate.

The famously tolerant Netherlands was holding an election Wednesday in which a far-right party that wants to ban all immigration from non-Western countries has a shot at doubling its seats in Parliament.

In Britain, the government is casting the new policy as an effort to promote integration — not to keep out foreigners.

"I believe being able to speak English should be a prerequisite for anyone who wants to settle here," Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement. "The new English requirement for spouses will help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services."

Couples already have to meet other criteria, like proving their marriage is genuine and demonstrating they can support themselves financially. And language tests are required for skilled workers and people applying for permanent residency or citizenship.

The changes to Britain's rules follow a hard-fought general election campaign in which immigration policy was a key, and contentious, issue.

The new measures have been criticized by civil libertarians, lawyers, and activists. Some say the changes discriminate against people from countries with few English-speaking traditions, such as in Africa and Asia. Others call them an intrusion into citizens' private lives.

Some also argue that English is best learned in a country where it's spoken everyday, rather than forcing people into classrooms abroad, which could be of varying standards and potentially costly.

Language requirements vary across Europe.

Some nations, such as France, require basic proficiency before arrival, while others, such as Italy, are in the process of phasing in a system in which an immigrant will have to achieve a certain number of points through language and culture tests.

In the United States, despite an increasingly vociferous movement to stem the influence of Spanish and make English the only official language, there is no requirement for a spousal visa applicant to speak English.