TOEIC and TOEFL tests no longer valid for UK visas

toefl 30 April 2014

On 17th April, the Home Office stated that it will no longer accept two of the most popular English-language proficiency tests for visa applications.

In February, a BBC Panorama programme uncovered cheating on one of these tests, where exam supervisors would read out the correct answers or other people would take the tests on behalf of applicants. Following this programme, the Home Office announced that TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) qualifications will not be accepted as evidence of English ability in visa applications. These tests were administered by the Educational Teaching Service (ETS).

This decision not only affects students wishing to study in the UK but also employees and self-employed individuals wishing to work in the UK. Current applicants who have already completed these tests will be affected, except those who applied for visas before 6th April.

As an alternative, the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) can be used for UK visa applications. However, whilst TOEFL examinees could apply for visas a few days before the exam, those taking IELTS tests have to send their applications about five weeks beforehand, so the tests are much less flexible.

International educational organisations have criticised this sudden decision. A spokesperson of the Japanese company beo (which helps Japanese students to study in the UK) said: "The decision will have a particularly big impact on those who are preparing to study in Britain as private individuals. There may be some people who have to abandon their plans to study from this autumn because they will not be able to submit the IELTS score to British universities by the application deadline."

On 26th April, more than 200 angry Chinese TOEFL candidates came together on microblogging website Weibo to complain to UK Visas and Immigration about the decision. They claimed that honest students are being punished for the wrongdoings of others. The students stated: "This policy may have a serious impact on our plans to study abroad, disturb our life totally and even shatter our study dreams… It is really unfair and unwise to refuse innocent overseas TOEFL candidates."

The Home Office will shortly amend the Immigration Rules to remove TOEIC and TOEFL as approved English tests.

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