The Home Office may have erroneously accused thousands of foreign students of cheating or faking their English proficiency in relation to their Tier 4 Student visas. These exams, sometimes referred to as a secured English language test or SELT, test English proficiency and are required of nationals from non-English speaking countries or those who do not have a previous degree taught in English.
The Home Office alleges that more than 30,000 test takers cheated by using someone else to sit the test for them, based on information provided to them by one of the testing companies that administers the English language tests in question. The Home Office said it had revoked the visas of 33,870 people between 2014 and 2016 as a result of the data provided, which indicated that 33,725 test takers had cheated. It was revealed in a 2016 immigration appeal hearing that the evidence presented by the Home Office was unreliable and had only been accurate in 80% of the cases, meaning that some 7,000 students had their visas revoked in error. 33,870 test takers being provided with the opportunity to cheat suggests a serious deficiency in identifying candidates taking the test and whilst 7,000 students only represents 20% of the total number found to be cheating, it means 7,000 people have suffered as a result, with educational careers ruined in some cases.
Many of the accused students have not been allowed a right of appeal against the Home Office decision and have not been allowed to interview and prove their English proficiency. This treatment comes to light in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal and the continued focus on what has been referred to as a “hostile environment” in the Home Office.
There are exceptions to the English language requirement. If you are studying as a Tier 4 (Child) student or have successfully completed a course of study in the UK as a Tier 4 (Child) student you are not required to prove your English language ability. If you have successfully obtained an academic qualification from a UK educational establishment or have previously completed an academic qualification equivalent to a UK degree, taught in a “majority English-speaking country”, you will not have to prove your English language proficiency as part of your application for a Tier 4 student visa. Similarly, if you are a national from a ‘majority English-speaking country’ you are exempt from this requirement.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.