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Home Office investigation into migrants' English language skills

It’s possible the investigation into English language testing in the UK could blow up into a similar scandal to Windrush if the Home Office don’t admit their failings in this matter. Since 2011 the visas of nearly 36,000 individuals have been revoked due to accusations of cheating which Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham in London, says runs “contrary to all principles of natural justice.” 

About the Home Office English language investigation

The Home Office investigation into English exam cheating by overseas nationals follows on from the 2014 Eden College scandal, where systematic cheating and the use of proxy test takers had become a matter of course. However, many immigration experts feel the resultant Home Office crackdown has been more about reaching UK immigration targets than genuinely attempting to catch English exam cheats. Since 2016, the Home Office has not provided updates on the numbers of migrants whose visas have been revoked. In 2016 the number stood at 35,870.

English language skills are often essential for any non-EU nationals hoping to qualify for visas to enter the UK. The different visas have requirements that vary, and these are set out below for information:

Visas that don’t require English language skills

Tier 1 investors, exceptional talent applicants, Tier 4 child/student applicants, Tier 5 applicants and Tier 2 inter-company transfer visa applicants are not required to meet the standards for English language. It’s also likely that UK visa applicants over the age of 65 or suffering from long-term mental or physical conditions will have any requirement for English language skills waived, although citizenship/settlement applications are dealt with under different rules.

Visa to represent an overseas business

When nationals from locations outside the EEA (European Economic Area) intend to apply for visas in order to represent their overseas business interests, it is essential to pass English language tests at CEFR level A1 for listening and speaking or to be in possession of post-18 years academic qualifications entirely taught in English and recognised by NARIC.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visas and Tier 2 General visas

Applicants for both of the above visas need to have passed CEFR B1 level English language tests or hold qualifications wholly taught in the English language and recognised by NARIC.

Startup and Innovator visas

Non-EEA citizens planning to apply for startup or innovator visas also need to be in possession of CEFR Level B2 qualifications or academic qualifications recognised by NARIC and taught in English.

Tier 4 student visas

Potential students from locations outside the EEA will need to discuss English language requirements with their respective university or institute of higher education.

Indefinite leave to remain in the UK and British citizenship

If you plan to settle in the UK, there is a requirement for all applicants to provide considerable understanding and knowledge of English.

If you’re a migrant that has been affected by Home Office investigations into your own English language skills or require representation or advice on other immigration matters or your UK visa application, Richmond Chambers offers professional barrister-only advice on UK immigration law and also handles immigration appeals. Get in touch to find out more.


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