The Government is investigating allegations of fraud in an essential language qualification for people applying for UK citizenship and UK visas who do not speak English as their first language.
A number of different companies provide the tests for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which judge applicants’ English speaking and listening skills.
The Home Office is now looking into claims that certificates to show applicants had passed the test were being sold at a London centre for £500 each. It has sent investigators to the Learn Pass Succeed (LPS) school in Upton Park in East London following the allegations printed in the Daily Mail. The paper said it had secretly filmed the transactions.
LPS has four branches in London and director Uzwan Ghani said the problem was confined to the one centre. The group has now suspended all exam results from Upton Park while the investigation is carried out.
He said that he was “shocked” and “concerned” at the allegations that the centre was allowing fake candidates to take the tests on behalf of the applicants, and then sell the certificates to them. The £500 price tag quoted is more than three times higher than the actual cost to sit the essential test.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said that the Government would act against anyone found to have committed fraud.
He told the BBC: "We will take the strongest possible action against anyone who is found to have abused the rules."
The Minister added that UK citizenship is not granted just on the strength of the qualification alone but that it was part of a range of tests and evidence required before a migrant was permitted to settle in the UK.