The Home Office has cancelled 36,000 student visas since 2014 after cheating was uncovered at test centres. The Home Office is facing over 300 court of appeal legal challenges from foreign students who believe they were wrongly accused of cheating in English tests, and dozens more cases are pending in immigration tribunals.
The students were required to take the test to extend their studies in the UK beyond their original student visa – which typically lasted from one to three years.
They would also have had to complete a separate English language test, usually taken in their home country, before initially being accepted to come to the UK to study.
Most students accused of fraudulently obtaining the language proficiency certificate required for a visa extension were unable to appeal.
Although there was evidence that some students did cheat, there is growing concern over the government’s subsequent ruling that the majority of people who sat the test of English for international communication (Toeic) between 2011 and 2014 had cheated.
Proxy test-takers were used in more than 30,000 cases and more than 1,000 people were removed from the country as a result of the investigation.
But many of those who have been able to pay for legal advice to challenge the allegation of cheating have found the evidence provided by the Home Office to be very insubstantial.
Rahima Bibi, 29, who arrived in the UK in 2009 to study chartered accountancy, was accused in 2016 of cheating in the Toeic test she took four years earlier, she has been unable to study or to work, she and her husband Kamrul Hasan have spent over £12,000 – all their life savings – on legal costs attempting to clear her name.
A letter from the Home Office ruled unexpectedly in 2016 that her visa renewal application had been rejected, The Home Office concluded that “her conduct, character, make it undesirable to allow her to remain in the UK.”
Rahima Bibi told, I finished my studies, I’ve been working, married Kamrul Hasan whom I met at college. But now I’m just sitting at home doing nothing, can’t work, can’t drive, can’t study, life is stopped.