Any adult migrant under the age of 65 who wishes to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen is required to pass the Life in the UK test. The test is taken at an approved centre on a computer. It lasts 45 minutes and is a series of multiple choice questions, with a pass mark of 75%.
On 4 February 2019 a BBC investigation revealed a gang in London has been facilitating cheating, by providing test candidates with a two-way earpiece and feeding them the answers to the test.
The Home Office maintains that test centres are required to implement security measures to ensure proper exam conditions, but clearly this has not always been the case.
It is currently unclear how widespread the cheating has been. However, there will be serious ramifications for anyone caught, and possibly also for other genuine migrants who have used test centres where cheating has taken place.
If a test result is invalidated, that, of course, prevents it being used for a naturalisation application. Following concerns about cheating in English language tests, we have seen situations where all certificates obtained from a particular test centre were declared void. Innocent migrants have then been left to challenge visa refusals through the courts. It is possible that the Home Office may take a similar stance regarding Life in the UK test certificates.
Moreover, even if the test is retaken and a valid result obtained, if an individual migrant was found to have committed fraud to obtain their first certificate, this would likely prevent them from meeting the good character requirement for naturalisation.
Concerns about Brexit mean increasing numbers of migrants are seeking to protect their rights in the UK by becoming British citizens. It is deeply worrying that criminal gangs are seeking to exploit this group by playing on their fears about having to pass the test.
Anyone planning to sit the test is advised to obtain the official Life in the UK test handbook and should use this to prepare for the test.