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THE UK: Visa Guides

8 Signs your student visa process is not completely legal

Take a look at our checklist and check that the following do not occur during your test or student visa application experience.


This week BBC’s Panorama programme exposed a handful of test centres and agents in the UK committing fraud within the student visa system. It was rather startling, so we thought we would sum up (in a light-hearted, friendly manner) the lessons we learned from the programme so you apply for a UK student visa the correct way.

  • Were you guaranteed anything? Did an agent absolutely guarantee you’ll get a visa, granted you pay an inflated fee? If so, be wary. Every case and student is different, and thus must be judged accordingly by the correct authorities.
  • Do you suddenly have money in your account which you shouldn’t have? Do you find yourself holding a bank statement that has your name on it, but shows funds you don’t actually have? If so, this is probably a forgery. Simple banking advice: bank statements are always issued by actual banks, not agents you’ve just met (the clue is in the word).
  • Did the agent have to look up and think about their “rates”?  If an “agent” has to think about their rates or they have nothing in print officially, these are probably questionable or simply illegal services (i.e. off-the-books). Plus, you should realise that getting an official document from someone other than the official body who administers them is not going to be authentic. Also, if you ask for a receipt and they give you a strange look, this may also indicate something is wrong.
  • Did you have a partner in your language test? Did someone come up behind you moments before the test was due to start, and take your place at the computer terminal? While it might take away some of the pressure, YOU are the one who has to take the test. Your “partner” will not be mentioned on your certificate, so why should they be there to take the test?
  • Were you not in the test room for the actual language test? This is a pretty big indicator. It doesn’t matter how excellent your English skills are, you need to be in the same room that the test is taking place in. Telekinetic and psychic powers are not allowed either, so you cannot move a pencil along the exam paper from another room either.
  • Were you told the test answers by an invigilator? OK, this breaks every rule, logic and point of a test or exam. An exam is meant to test your knowledge of a subject i.e. the English language as in this case. Also, an invigilator’s role is to ensure that no one actually cheats. So if the invigilator is reading out the answers themselves, there is definitely something wrong with this.
  • Was there a warning about police raids? If a member of staff gives you instructions of what to do if the police were to arrive suddenly, you should be extremely wary of the practices taking place. Police do not randomly check English language tests unless something illegal is occurring or they have sufficient evidence of such. They have better ways to spend their time then popping in to see international students taking an English test.
  • Did you see anyone you recognise on BBC’s Panorama? – Similarly, investigative journalists have better ways to spend their time. If there are cameras of any kind at the test centre, the staff will inform you as to why they are there.

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, there may very well be something odd going on.

This recent incidence of corruption does not speak for the whole system: consequences for visa fraud are very serious, and the UK has some of the world’s strictest immigration laws. There are legitimate ways to obtain and extend your student visa, and if you’re serious about studying in the UK then going about it properly is your best and only option.

If you have any queries about the student immigration process, visit the UKBA website

If you would prefer to apply to a university yourself without an agent, you can apply through our trusted i-Apply service.


Useful links:

Learn more about obtaining a UK Student Visa the correct way

English tests fraud exposed

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.


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