On February 5 2016 UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) published a new list of approved secure English language tests (SELTs) and test centres.

Reform of the English language test provisions for UK immigration applications has been ongoing over the past few years and may well continue. Applicants should ensure that they are aware of any changes well in advance of their proposed visa application date.

In November 2010 the UK Border Agency (now UKVI) was tasked with reviewing English language tests and asked to produce a revised list of approved test providers. In April 2011 the first revised list of acceptable providers was produced.

In Spring 2014 a joint investigation by UKVI and the National Crime Agency identified "more than 29,000 invalid results and more than 19,000 questionable results" from English language exams that had been sat at Educational Testing Service test centres in the United Kingdom. Consequently, efforts to continue streamlining the number of accredited SELT providers intensified. Since April 6 2015 only exams from Trinity College and the International English Language Test System (IELTS) have been accepted for UK visa applications, with some transition procedures put in place. Notably, the transition procedures set a deadline by which test certificates must be used.

IELTS has developed two new tests for UK immigration purposes. IELTS for UKVI is a government-approved SELT and includes prescribed administrative requirements that have been set by UKVI. Caseworkers can use the UKVI number located on the test report form to locate test results online. The government created the IELTS life skills test for individuals applying:

  • as dependants of UK citizens or settled persons; and
  • for indefinite leave to remain or citizenship.

Applicants are required to select their choice of test at the booking stage on the IELTS website. Care must be exercised when making this selection, as choosing the wrong test is likely to cause expense and delay.

The English language requirement must be met by individuals applying under the following immigration categories:

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 2 (except intra-company transfer categories) and Tier 4 of the points-based system;
  • dependants over 18 of UK citizens or settled persons; and
  • indefinite leave to remain and citizenship applicants.

Applicants for indefinite leave to remain can rely on their existing B1-level test results if the test is on the current list of approved test providers and was accepted by UKVI for a previous UK immigration application (eg, for entry clearance). The same qualification can then also be used to satisfy the knowledge of language requirement for UK citizenship applications, even if the test certificate may no longer be valid for initial applications.

In light of these ongoing developments, all candidates are advised to check the most recent list of approved SELTs before booking an English language test to ensure that it is accepted by UKVI.

For further information on this topic please contact Ben Sheldrick at Magrath LLP by telephone (+44 20 7495 3003) or email (ben.sheldrick@magrath.co.uk). The Magrath LLP website can be accessed at www.magrath.co.uk.

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