There are several immigration routes which require applicants to demonstrate their English language abilities by passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT).
The level of test that an applicant is required to take is referred to as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level. This will depend on the route that an applicant is applying for, and can be found in the specific guidance for that route. An applicant should take legal advice on the specific English language requirements for the immigration route that they wish to apply on.
Applicants must ensure that they book a test that is approved for SELT, and they must take the test at an approved test provider.
Until now, the Home Office have prescribed who the approved test providers are. However, at the beginning of August 2022, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) updated its guidance regarding SELTs, publicising that it is currently piloting SELTs outside of a test centre environment through some of its commercial partners. This is limited to specific immigration routes and only certain commercial partners are taking part in the pilot. The UKVI has not publicised details on which immigration routes are eligible, or which commercial partners are involved, and the government website states that if an applicant is eligible then their commercial partner will contact them.
We imagine that the commercial partners may include Sopra Steria, TLScontact or VFS Global, as these are the companies currently used by the Home Office for immigration applications.
The provision of more locations at which applicants can take a SELT is a positive change as it is not uncommon for applicants to have to travel long distances, and even to other countries, to take a SELT at an approved test centre. However, UKVI services provided by commercial partners are often expensive for applicants, and we hope that the cost of booking a test through commercial partners will be reasonable.
If the pilot is successful, then it may be extended from summer 2023. We will provide updates once published by the Home Office. For further details regarding secure English language tests visit the government website.