Fraud risk too high to host citizenship test remotely, immigration minister claims

Written by Sam Trendall on 17 June 2020 in News

Testing centres are now reopen and online tests may be considered in future

Credit: Katie Collins/PA

The risk of fraud is still too high for the government to consider hosting citizenship tests remotely, the immigration minister Kevin Foster has claimed.

Testing centres for the knowledge of Life in the UK test – which forms part of the process of applying to be naturalised as a British citizen or the right to remain in the country permanently – were closed on 20 March. They remained shut for the whole of March and April and reopened, with social-distancing measures in place, on 1 June.

The outsourced contract for delivering the test was retendered last year and US-based “workforce solutions” company PSI Services won a £220m, three-year deal to run the service.  
During the procurement process, which concluded in July 2019, the Home Office examined the possibility of offering remote testing as part of the service.

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“We have previously considered remote testing and prior to the award of the recent contract,” Foster said. “Remote testing was not considered appropriate as anti-fraud measures have to be maintained at all times to protect the integrity of the test.”

This recent examination of the potential risks of virtual tests meant that they were not considered as a viable option – even during lockdown. But the immigration minister said that government may revisit the possibility in future.

“We may consider remote testing in the future as and when suitable technology is available and we are confident the integrity of tests can be maintained,” he said.

Foster was answering a written parliamentary question from SNP MP for Glasgow North Patrick Grady, who asked: “what recent assessment [the Home Office] has made of the potential merits of enabling people to take the Life in the UK test virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic?”.

The Life in the UK test is a computerised exam consisting of 24 questions “about British traditions and customs” which candidates have 45 minutes to answer. Tests, which are hosted at 38 centres across the UK, cost £50 to sit.

The 30 centres located in England have begun to reopen, but the four in Scotland and two each in Northern Ireland and Wales all remain closed, Foster indicated.

“During Covid-19 we have been working closely with all our providers to restart the provision of our services. The knowledge of Life in the UK service reopened on 1 June 2020 in England only,” he said. “This service recommenced with processes to ensure social distancing and health and safety measures are in place. Consideration of opening test sites in the rest of the United Kingdom is pending decisions by the individual devolved authorities.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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