Around 48,000 immigrants have cheated in English tests in order to obtain British visas, ministers have announced. Speaking in the House of Commons today, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced the figures after an investigation revealed that fraudsters are sitting language tests on behalf of immigrants.
The minister said that of the 48,000 language certificates, 29,000 were invalid while 19,000 were “questionable”. Mr Brokenshire added: “It is likely that the true totals will be higher.”
“Since the start of February immigration enforcement officers, with the support of the National Crime Agency, together with officials from UK Visas and Immigration, have been conducting a detailed and wide-ranging investigation into actions by organised criminals to falsify English language tests for student visa applicants.
“They’ve also investigated a number of colleges and universities for their failure to ensure that their students meet the criteria set out in immigration rules.”
The revelation comes after secret filming by the BBC’s Panorama programme showed that candidates sitting tests set by ETS, a major testing firm, were being replaced by fake sitters with superior language skills courtesy of immigration consultancies.
Each year, around 100,000 non-EU citizens in the UK on student visas have those visas extended.
Panorama sent two non-EU students, who were already legally in the UK, to pose as bogus students with poor English skills.
They were told by an immigration consultancy that they simply had to have their photographs taken at the test centre to prove they were there, while stand-ins with good English skills sat the tests for them.
In another case, exam invigilators were filmed reading out the correct answers in an English language exam, resulting in the class completing the two-hour test in seven minutes.
Mr Brokenshire added that the perpetrators will now face criminal investigations.