Testing times: English language tests during coronavirus lockdown

When you apply for a UK visa or leave to remain, you might have to take an approved Secure English Language Test (“SELT”) to meet the English language requirement.

If you are applying for indefinite leave to remain, or for naturalisation as a British citizen, you also have to pass the Life In The UK test.

Approved English tests overseas are provided by IELTS and LanguageCert. Both providers have suspended testing in many of their overseas centres, and there are also restrictions on attendance if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Approved tests in the UK are provided by IELTS, Trinity College and LanguageCert. All three providers have suspended testing in the UK for the time being.

Information about IELTS tests

Information about Trinity College tests

Information about LanguageCert tests

Life In The UK test centres are also closed, although the booking site does say that it is taking bookings for dates after 11 May 2020.

Applying from outside the UK

Visa application centres overseas are closed. This means that all visa applications are delayed until biometric services can be resumed.

In most circumstances, UK Visas & Immigration have advised that you should delay making your visa application until the language testing and biometrics services are running again.

Applying inside the UK

If you need to take a test to meet the English language requirement for your next application for leave to remain and you cannot take a test before you submit your application, you should still ensure that you submit your application in time, before your existing leave expires. You should note on your online application form, or in a covering letter, the efforts that you have made to take a relevant test. You can also include a screenshot of the relevant provider webpage, showing that test centres are closed.

Most English test certificates are valid for 2 years. However, in some cases you can use a test certificate that has expired: for example, if you are applying for leave to remain as a partner and your test is at the correct level and was previously used to support a successful application. You can read more about this on the Home Office webpage for your application category.

Applying for ILR or citizenship

If you have not met the English language and Life In The UK requirements for ILR, you might have the option of applying for further limited leave to allow you time to take the relevant tests. However, this involves paying the application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge for a further grant of leave.

You can also consider submitting your application for ILR without having passed the relevant tests, but noting the reasons for this. If you cannot provide a required document to support your immigration application, and there is a good reason for this, the Home Secretary has a general discretion to allow your application anyway. In the current circumstances, this would accord with general Home Office statements that people should not be disadvantaged in immigration terms by circumstances related to coronavirus that are outside their control. However, there is no change to the Immigration Rules or clear statement about the Language and Life In The UK requirements.

If you have questions about meeting the English language requirement for your application you can contact me for further advice.

This post was updated on 12 May 2020 to include information about LanguageCert testing.

Kitty Falls


Tel: 07752722292

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