Changes to Secure English Language Testing


In 2014 severe abuse of the Secure English Language Testing system was uncovered revealing that tens of thousands of migrants had used ‘systematic cheating’ to pass their English language tests and Education Testing Service (ETS) were the centre of police investigations.

Following this the Home Office set out to find alternative arrangements. Now, two providers have been selected to deliver Secure English Language Testing as approved providers:

  • UK only: Trinity College London (for customers applying in the UK only)
  • UK and Rest of World (ROW): IELTS SELT Consortia (for visa customers applying either outside or inside the UK)

Changes will take effect from 6 April 2015.

Applicants who take the language test on or before 5 April 2015 with the current providers will be able to use their certificates until 5 November 2015.

Secure English Language Testing

So how will they make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again?

  • New security features will be introduced, including CCTV, voice sampling and independent audits. Only centres approved for Secure English Language Testing purposes will fully meet the specific requirements for UK immigration purposes.
  • It will be clear from the approved providers’ websites and test results whether a test is taken at a Secure English Language Testing centre.
  • The number of tests approved for UK immigration purposes will be consolidated to simplify the offering to customers.
  • There will be a reduction in the test centre network to increase control and Home Office auditing ability. To ensure capacity can be met within a reduced network, the Home Office will introduce greater certainty of test availability. Providers will be required to meet new service standards to give candidates confirmation of the time it will take to complete the test and receive their results. Tests should be available within 28 days at every permanent Secure English Language Testing centre in the UK and overseas.
  • There will also be introduced temporary test sites in places where there is much lower demand which wouldn’t justify a permanent centre. Tests will be delivered at least quarterly (according to local demand), in these centres.
  • The Home Office plan to move to a digital system. This will initially be achieved using online booking and providing candidates with electronic results for the purposes of their immigration application. Online testing will commence in 2016.

‘Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) will retain their ability to make their own assessment of English Language capability for degree level courses and above. The HEI policy around English language ability is not changing.’

Surprisingly the Home Office are not making any evaluation on the security or quality of other provider’s tests.  It is simply the case that only tests taken at a Secure English Language Testing centre have been conducted according to the identity and other security features the Home Office now requires for immigration purposes.

From November 2015, the Home Office will be bringing English language requirements for settlement and naturalisation into line with the requirements which apply to other immigration applications.  This means that applicants will be required to take a Secure English Language Testing and other English language qualifications will no longer be accepted.


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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