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Return of passport by Home Office to sit Secure English Language Test


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The Home Office has confirmed that where it holds the passport of a migrant who wishes to sit the Secure English Language Test (SELT) it will either return the passport to enable the migrant to sit the SELT or will confirm directly with the SELT centre that the passport is held and is genuine. The full FOI response can be accessed here and the relevant parts are as follows:

The Home Office does not has not issued any guidance specifically on the issue of the return of passports held by the Home Office to enable an individual to present identity documents at an approved Secure English Language Testing (SELT) centre.

However, I can confirm the arrangements in place around SELT identity requirements and the return of passports as requested.

When attending a test centre to sit a SELT test a candidate must provide evidence of their identity before being allowed to take the test. The only acceptable forms of identification for in the UK are:

  • a valid passport or travel document;
  • a valid EU Identity Card;
  • a valid Biometric Residence Permit.

The documents must be originals and include a photograph. Any candidate who is unable to prove their identity will not be allowed to take the test. Photocopies of a passport cannot be accepted, as the test centre staff will not be able to confirm that the document is a genuine document, including checking the security features of the passport.

You have asked for an explanation as what would the Home Office position if a request is made for the return of an identity document to take a SELT test in the following scenarios:

  1. the applicant has extant leave;
  2. the applicant has leave under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971;
  3. the applicant has permission to remain under the Free Movement Directive;
  4. the applicant is an overstayer / illegal entrant.

In the first three scenarios, the identity document should be returned by the Home Office in order to allow the individual to sit the SELT test.

In the last scenario the Home Office may not return the passport to allow the individual to sit the SELT test, as they would be in the UK illegally and the passport would assist in the individual’s removal. Guidance on the power to retain passports is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/retaining-valuable- documents

Also, where an individual has requested the return of the identity document after the application has been refused, the Home Office may not return the document as it would assist in the individual’s removal.

In cases where an immigration appeal has been held or is in progress the Home Office will make a decision whether to return the passport or not. In the majority of cases the passport should be returned. In exceptional cases where there are serious concerns that the applicant may abscond if the passport is returned, the Home Office will request that the applicant books a SELT test, then will scan the passport and send this with the booking details to the SELT provider to allow the applicant to sit the test. In these cases the Home Office will confirm to the SELT provider that the passport has been checked and there are no concerns about it being genuine.

Many thanks to Ravi Khosla of solicitors DJ Webb & Co for sharing this information.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


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